Because sex crimes are highly stigmatized, most people are afraid to ask any questions at all, leaving the subject shrouded in mystery to some degree. There are also many myths and common misunderstandings about Minnesota sex crime laws.
Today, we’re addressing some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this category of offense in our state.
How Does Minnesota Define Rape and Sexual Assault Crimes?
In Minnesota, rape and sexual assault are referred to as “criminal sexual conduct.” The law separates criminal sexual conduct into degrees depending on the nature of the unlawful sexual activity as well as the victim’s age.
First-, second-, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct are charges commonly associated with rape and sexual assault: penetration of a victim, or engagement in non-consensual sexual touching by force. However, some scenarios garner lesser criminal sexual conduct charges.
I didn’t know my partner was under 13. Why am I being charged?
It is a fourth- or fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct offense to engage in sexual touching or intercourse with a child under the age of 13. According to law, saying you didn’t know the person was that young is not a valid defense.
What if there was no penetration?
Even when no penetration occurred, unwanted sexual contact may be charged as sexual assault. Fourth- and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges apply when the defendant engages in non-penetrative sexual conduct or attempts to remove another person’s clothing without consent.
What Does “Consent” Mean in Minnesota?
“Affirmative consent” includes words or overt actions by an individual indicating freely given agreement to perform a sexual act.
She’s my wife. How is having sex a crime?
According to law, the simple existence of a prior or current marriage – or any other social or romantic relationship – between the actor and complainant does not nullify the requirement for consent.
What if my partner seemed to be okay with sex?
An accuser who fails to resist a sex act may still have grounds to file rape or sexual assault charges against you. This is why it is imperative that you receive clear communication (verbal is best) that the sexual activity you are engaging in is okay before you begin.
My sexual partner didn’t say ‘no.’ Why am I being charged?
Under certain circumstances, the victim is considered legally unable to give consent. If you could describe your sexual partner as any of the following, you did not have legal consent:
- Mentally incapacitated by intoxication or another means
- Physically helpless
- Profoundly intellectually disabled
- Under the age of consent
Is Not Reporting Suspected Child Sexual Abuse in MN a Crime?
If you suspect a child is being sexually abused, you are required by law to report under the following contexts:
- You are a health care professional involved in the treatment of the child
- You are a professional involved in childcare, education, probation, correctional supervision, correctional services or law enforcement, and are working with the child in the course of your duties
- You are a member of the clergy and received the information while involved in ministerial duties unless the information is otherwise privileged (like a confession)
If you are a mandatory reporter and fail to report suspected sexual abuse of a child, you could be charged with a misdemeanor in addition to potentially facing professional consequences.
How Long Does an Alleged Victim Have to Report a Sex Crime?
The statutes of limitations for sex crimes, particularly those committed against children, have recently come under question in Minnesota. For now, the time limits for a person to report a Minnesota sex crime are generally nine years, except under certain circumstances.
Nine Years After the Commission of the Offense
Crimes including (but not limited to) sex trafficking and criminal sexual conduct in the first through fourth degrees may generally be reported within nine years after the commission of the offense.
Three Years After the Commission of the Offense
A victim of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct who is over 18 has three years after the commission of the offense to report. Any criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree and acts of solicitation of a child must both be reported within three years as well.
No Time Limit with DNA Evidence
In most cases where DNA evidence was collected and preserved, there are no statutes of limitations. A victim has the right to report the crime at any point in time.
Will I Be Required to Register as a Minnesota Sex Offender?
If you are convicted of any of the following sex crimes in Minnesota, you will be required to register as a sex offender:
- First-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree felony criminal sexual conduct
- Murder while committing (or attempting) criminal sexual conduct with force or violence
- Felony indecent exposure
- Possession or distribution of child pornography
- Soliciting a minor
- False imprisonment of a minor
While registered as a sex offender, your picture, home address and workplace will be publically available on a database of registered sex offenders.
If you have specific questions about rape, sexual assault, or other criminal sexual conduct charges and what those terms mean, don’t hesitate to call an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney to ask.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).