Though “sexual assault” and “sexual battery” are common terms referring to certain sex crimes, many people ask us what these terms mean. What’s the difference between sexual assault and sexual battery? Do they have different punishments in Minnesota? Here’s an overview of the definitions and penalties for sexual battery and sexual assault.
How does Minnesota law define sexual assault and sexual battery?
Different states use different terminology to refer to sex crimes. For example, in Colorado, “sexual assault” has two categories: rape (involving sexual penetration) and unlawful sexual contact (such as non-consensual groping). Meanwhile, in Mississippi, “sexual battery” is the term for unwanted sexual penetration.
Minnesota statutes do not categorize sex crimes as “sexual battery” or “sexual assault.” Instead, our law uses the term “criminal sexual conduct” (CSC) with varying degrees, each defined in Minnesota Statutes Sections 609.342 to 609.3451.
State law also distinguishes “sexual penetration” from “sexual contact.” According to Minnesota Statute 609.341, subdivision 11, sexual contact includes various forms of unwanted touching with malicious sexual intent or removing or attempting to remove the complainant’s intimate clothing. Meanwhile, “sexual penetration” includes not just sexual intercourse but any intrusion into the complainant’s genital or anal openings.
Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota: Degrees and Penalties
Most criminal sexual offenses in Minnesota are felonies, except for certain fifth-degree offenses that are deemed gross misdemeanors.
First-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minnesota Statute 609.342)
This most serious level of sexual conduct offense constitutes sexual penetration (or sexual contact, if the victim is under 13 years old), combined with other factors such as:
- Complainant had reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm
- Actor was armed with a dangerous weapon
- Actor caused personal injury on the complainant
- Actor had an accomplice
- Actor knew the complainant was mentally impaired or physically helpless.
A first-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction is punishable with up to 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. The minimum prison sentence is 12 years, and release will require sex offender treatment and monitoring.
Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Minnesota Statute 609.343)
This level of offense has similar factors to the first-degree offense but does not involve sexual penetration – only sexual contact. Potential penalties for second-degree CSC are a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment and a $35,000 fine. The minimum prison sentence is 7.5 years, subject to sex offender treatment and monitoring.
Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Minnesota Statute 609.344)
This involves primarily statutory rape or sexual penetration with a minor. The law states specific situations such as:
- The complainant is under 13 years old, and the actor is older by up to 36 months
- The complainant is 13 to 15 years old, and the actor is older by more than 24 months.
- The complainant is 16 to 17 years old, and the actor is older by more than 48 months.
- The actor has a significant relationship with the complainant, and the complainant is under 18 years old.
- The complainant was seeking guidance from the actor (such as during psychotherapy or religious counseling). The complainant does not have to be a minor in this case.
Third-degree CSC may be penalized with a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and a fine of up to $30,000. Release is also dependent on submission to sex offender treatment and monitoring.
Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Minnesota Statute 609.345)
This charge is similar to that of third-degree CSC but involves only sexual contact, not sexual penetration. Penalties may include a 10-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine. A conviction will also require registration as a sex offender.
Fifth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Minnesota Statute 609.3451)
Any type of non-consensual sexual contact may constitute a fifth-degree CSC charge. It also includes masturbation or exhibition of genitals in the presence of a person under 16 years of age.
This degree of offense may be either a gross misdemeanor or a felony. A person may be convicted of a gross misdemeanor if this is their first offense, resulting in imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $3,000. If the defendant has a prior fifth-degree conviction, the charge may rise to a felony, punishable with up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $14,000.
For MN Criminal Defense, Contact Attorney Jeff Dean
Criminal sexual conduct is heavily penalized in Minnesota. The consequences of a conviction extend beyond prison time and fines. They can damage one’s whole life and future prospects.
If you’re facing a sex crime allegation or have been charged with criminal sexual conduct, it’s crucial to get a competent lawyer as soon as you can. Contact Attorney Jeff Dean, one of Minnesota’s most active and trusted defense lawyers. With over two decades of legal experience, he has helped protect Minnesotans through dismissals, reduced charges, Not Guilty verdicts, and overturned convictions.
We serve the Hennepin County area, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Winona, Edina, Brooklyn Center, Blue Earth County, Mankato, and beyond. Call Jeff Dean at (612) 305-4360 or send a message through our Contact page.