Sex Crimes: What is Sexual Misconduct in Minnesota?

If you’ve read the news in Minnesota this year, the words sexual misconduct have featured fairly prominently in some major headlines. Whether it was the allegations against senator Al Franken, or the news that two lawmakers are resigning their posts, this term just keeps coming up. But what is sexual misconduct, really? It sounds pretty vague, and a little bloodless. That’s because the term isn’t a legal definition. As such, it can be used to refer to practically any sex crime without getting into the specifics. Which is often the point, since if a specific statute is cited, then those who hear it will be able to discover the elements of the action in question to determine what someone is being specifically accused of.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, criminal sexual conduct falls into five different degrees. The most severe form of crimes are first degree criminal sexual conduct, and the least severe is fifth degree criminal sexual conduct. What actions were taken, as well as factors like the victim’s age and ability to give legal consent, are what determine where someone’s misconduct falls, according to the University of Minnesota.

The first, and most severe, degree of sexual conduct charges may be brought when the victim was very young (under the age of the 13), was unable to consent, violence or the threat of violence was used, and penetrative intercourse occurred. If the victim was injured, that will also play into these charges. The penalty is up to 30 years in prison, and up to a $40,000 fine. Minnesota statute 609.342.

Second degree sexual conduct crimes also tend to be brought in instances of violence, or the threat of violence, if the victim was quite young, or unable or unwilling to consent. While there may still have been injury, penetration did not occur in second degree conduct. The penalty is up to 25 years in prison, and up to a $35,000 fine. Minnesota statute 609.343.

Third degree sexual conduct crimes tend to be referred to as aggravated contact, rather than as assault. No violence, or threat of violence, is used in these crimes, and typically no penetration or injury occurs. The penalty is up to 15 years in prison, and up to a $30,000 fine. Minnesota statute 609.344.

Fourth degree sexual conduct crimes involve aggravated contact, as well, but they also tend to involve situations where the victim was not legally able to consent to the sexual contact. Statutory rape often falls into this particular category because while a young victim might have been a willing participant, they were not legally able to consent to what took place. The penalty is up to 10 years in prison, and up to a $20,000 fine. Minnesota statute 609.345.

The fifth and final degree of sexual conduct crimes involves unwanted sexual contact, and lewd actions. This could include making unwanted sexual advances, groping, and other forms of conduct that don’t injure the victim, or result in injury, but still violate their consent. The penalty is up to 1 year in prison, and up to a $3,000 fine, however, some repeat offenses may be punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine. Minnesota statute 609.3451.

Every Case Is Unique

While there is a general scale of severity when it comes to sex crimes in Minnesota, it’s important to remember that every sex crime comes with its own, unique set of circumstances. Everything from what an aggressor said, to where the crime took place, to whether the victim was capable of giving consent will play into the case. It’s complex, and that is why it’s important to have someone capable of navigating those difficult waters.

If you, or someone you love, is involved in a sex crime in Minnesota, make sure you get them a representative who will do the best they can. If you have questions, or need help, simply contact us today!