When you’re young and in love, you don’t always think about the legalities of your relationship. However, Minnesota takes teen dating seriously, especially if there’s too big of an age gap between the couple.
Recently, two teenagers – both considered juveniles by the law – were charged with felony offenses in Becker County in northwestern Minnesota due to their relationship.
The specific reason? Their relationship had turned sexual, and that sexual contact is illegal within the confines of the law… because of how old the teens are.
Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said, “Just dating in and of itself isn’t illegal. We have ninth graders who go to school with seniors, and they’re intermingling. We’re not trying to stop that — it’s when they take it one step further.”
While this might seem like a minor issue, law enforcement officials have to follow the law when it comes to teens engaging in sexual acts, so let’s break down the actual laws regarding juveniles and sex crimes.
Teens and Sex: What Is the Law in Minnesota?
In our state, the age of consent is 16 years old. This means that anyone under the age of 16 is not legally able to consent to sexual activity and engaging in this type of behavior could result in a statutory rape charge.
A teen could be charged with criminal sexual conduct if he or she has sexual contact and:
- The victim is less than 13 years old and the actor is more than three years older than the victim.
- The victim is between 13 and 16 and the actor is more than two years older.
- The victim is between 16 and 18 and the actor is more than four years older and uses a position of authority to make the victim submit.
Sexual contact is defined as the intentional touching of the victim’s intimate parts by the actor. The touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts constitutes sexual contact, as does the intentional touching with seminal fluid or sperm by the actor of the victim’s body or clothing covering the victim’s body.
Becker County Investigator Kathy Nguyen adds that, “Sexual contact is also defined as breasts and inner thigh areas.”
The laws are also in place regardless of gender. If a female is the older one, then she’s in trouble. If a male is the older one, then he’s in trouble.
So what does this mean for teens? Well, if a 15- and 17-year-old or 14- and 16-year-old are dating and their relationship becomes sexual, they could be violating Minnesota law.
The punishment for this type of crime could include a number of consequences. Like jail time. Or having to register as a sex offender. It depends on the circumstances of the alleged crime.
How Are Police Officers Alerted to Teens’ Private Lives?
Hold on, though. What teens choose to do in their private lives should remain private as long as they’re engaging in consensual sex, right? How would officers even learn about these types of offenses?
While parents might report their teen’s activity to law enforcement, police officers are usually alerted to these incidents by mandated reporters. Teachers, school counselors, medical staff, social workers, and similar professionals are required to report instances of teens breaking the law if they’re made aware.
What’s more, once these instances are reported, officers have to investigate. The results of that investigation will then be sent to the county attorney’s office, and they will decide whether to prosecute.
A criminal conviction for a sex crime can be catastrophic to a teen’s life. That’s why, if you’re a teen or the parent of a teen who has been charged with a sexual offense, it’s imperative to contact an experienced Minnesota sex crimes attorney to defend your charges and fight for your rights.
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).