In Minnesota, sex offenders are required to serve their prison sentence and then be admitted to a “prison hospital” setting to receive treatment in the form of therapy, hormones, and the like.
In June 2015, Federal Judge Frank ruled that this policy for treating sex offenders was unconstitutional. He ordered that instead, sex offenders should be evaluated frequently during their sentence. If necessary, they could then be transferred to the “hospital” for further treatment after serving their time. However, they must also be evaluated frequently when they’re in the hospital, and officials and healthcare professionals must decide if the offender is still a risk to the public. If they are deemed to be safe, the person can (and should) be released.
These changes were put on hold when a direct appeal was made to the court, making Judge Frank’s unconstitutional claim ineffective. Appeals can take months – and even years – to resolve. So as 2016 starts, the “old rules” will still be in place.
If you are currently facing a sex crime charge, these are the laws that you will be subject to. To make sure you understand them completely, I’m going to cover them in greater detail below.
A charge of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is the “worst case scenario” for a defendant. If you find yourself up against this charge, you absolutely want to make sure that you work with a skilled sex crimes attorney who will aggressively defend you.
Essentially, the charge means that sexual penetration occurred with a victim that was 13 years old or younger and the accused was at least 3 years older. Or that the victim was 13 to 16 years old and the accused was at least 4 years older and holds guardianship or some position of authority with the victim. Additionally, the sexual act was performed under force, threats, or while holding or threatening with a weapon. Physical harm may have been sustained, or threat of injury may have been used.
If you find yourself charged with sexual conduct in the first degree, you could face up to 30 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. In most cases, the judge can mandate up to 30 years, but the minimum with a conviction is at least 12. You will also be subject to “conditional release,” which is the hospital treatment that Judge Frank is trying to overrule. After being released from prison, you will essentially be treated in a prison hospital and subject to their evaluations.
Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree is essentially the first degree without sexual penetration; only sexual touching occurs.
Charges of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree usually result in a minimum of 90 months (7.5 years) in prison, but can span up to 25 years. You will also be fined $35,000 and be subject to the type of conditional release already discussed.
A defendant can be charged with criminal sexual conduct in the third degree in the event of sexual penetration where the victim is under 13 and the defendant is 3 years older or less, or if the victim is 13-15 years old and the defendant is 2 to 10 years older, where the evidence argues that the defendant believed the victim to be at least 16.
In cases of coercion, presence of a handicap in the victim, or the defendant has a position of authority (teacher, guardian, clergy, or even hired services), the charges will be added to result in higher years served in prison. There are some cases of statutory rape where even the prosecution claims consent was provided, and those individuals receive lesser sentencing.
In the case of statutory rape, a defendant will be sentenced to 3 years (on average), and be charged up to a $30,000 fine. For non-statutory rape cases, the minimum sentence is 4 years, but up to 15, and the fine is $30,000 as well. For a defendant who used coercion against a minor or a handicapped individual, the prison sentence increases exponentially. These defendants will also be subject to conditional release and likely hospital treatment after their sentence is served.
Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is essentially the third degree without sexual penetration; only sexual touching occurs.
Charges of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree usually results in a minimum of 2 years in prison, but can span up to 10 years. If you are found guilty of statutory rape, the minimum prison stay is 18 months, but you are liable for the same penalties. In both cases (statutory and non-statutory), you will be fined $20,000 and be subject to conditional release.
Criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree is commonly referred to as “lewd contact,” and involves showing your genitals to a minor, or attempting to remove another person’s clothing. This can result in a 15 month stayed sentence, with a maximum of one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. This is considered a misdemeanor.
If you face any of the above charges, contact an experienced sex crimes attorney with a successful track record in cases like yours who can advise you of your rights and work to craft the best possible defense.
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).