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Criminal Sexual Conduct Laws and Penalties in Minnesota

Some states have a large number of criminal offenses that encapsulate every form of criminal sexual wrongdoing. That is not the case in Minnesota. Instead, state law combines each of these offenses into different degrees of the same crime: criminal sexual conduct.

Criminal sexual conduct can cover a wide range of allegations, but each of them are serious. These offenses carry steep penalties that could follow you for a lifetime if convicted. It is vital to have a strong defense when facing these allegations.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you aggressively defend yourself from criminal sexual conduct charges. An experienced sex crimes attorney from our firm could assist you with determining the best possible defense in your situation. Reach out right away for your free consultation with our firm.

Understanding Criminal Sexual Conduct Laws in Minnesota

In total, there are five different types of criminal sexual conduct charges under the law. Each of these charges are distinguished by “degrees.” These offenses are numbered, with first-degree criminal sexual conduct being the most serious of the five offenses.

If you face charges for any degree of criminal sexual conduct, it is imperative that you seek out legal counsel as soon as possible. These charges are serious, and the consequences of a conviction could haunt you for the rest of your life. Even after your prison term is over and your fines are paid, collateral consequences could impact you for years to come. Let a defense attorney from our firm help you fight back.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fifth Degree

Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct is the lowest tier of sex offense under state law. While this is the case, the consequences of a conviction are anything but minor. The specifics of this offense can be found in Minnesota Statute Section 609.3451. A conviction under this statute can occur in two different ways. First, criminal sexual conduct involves any act of non-consensual sexual penetration. It should be noted that the other, more serious, versions of this offense usually involve sexual penetration without consent along with some other element present.

Criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree also applies specifically to children. Outside of sexual penetration, the act of unwanted sexual contact is considered fifth-degree sexual conduct when the alleged victim is under the age of 16. Alternatively, this offense also covers lewd acts in front of a minor under the age of 16.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fourth Degree

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is covered by Minnesota Statute section 609.345. It is the second-lowest type of sex offense, just above sexual conduct in the fifth degree. This offense is appropriate when a person is alleged to have sexual contact with another adult using coercion, or when they had reason to know that person was incapacitated or impaired.

Criminal sexual conduct also applies to sexual conduct with minors in specific situations. According to the statute, this is the appropriate charge when a person is accused of sexual contact with:

  • A person under the age of 14 when they are more than 36 months older,
  • A person at least 14 but under 16 and the accused is more than 36 months older,
  • A person that is 16 but under the age of 18 and the accused is more than 36 months older.

There are some limited defenses built into this statute. When a person is accused of sexual contact with a person older than 16 but younger than 18, the defense of mistake could be viable for the accused if they are no more than 120 months older than the alleged victim. It is the burden of the accused to prove this defense.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Third Degree

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is governed by Minnesota Statute Section 609.344. The statute largely applies to the same circumstances as criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree. The important difference is that the conduct related to minors involves sexual penetration as opposed to sexual contact. The same defense to criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree related to a mistake is also viable for this charge.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Second Degree

The second-highest sex offense under the law is known as criminal sexual conduct in the second degree. This charge is governed by Minnesota Statute Section 609.343. There are two different circumstances that can result in a conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. One of these circumstances involves adult victims, while the other is related to minor children.

When it comes to adult victims, first-degree sexual conduct generally involves some kind of use of force along with non-consensual sexual contact. A person commits this offense when they engage in non-consensual sexual contact of another person while also:

  • Placing that person in fear of great bodily harm
  • Threatens the alleged victim with a dangerous weapon
  • Causing personal injury during the act
  • Uses a combination of coercion and force, or
  • Relying on an accomplice to use force.

The circumstances are different when it comes to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and child victims. In these cases, there are two situations where first-degree charges are appropriate. According to the statute, it is unlawful for an adult to engage in sexual contact of anyone under the age of 18, or sexual conduct under the age of 14. In addition, the state must also show that the accused:

  • Caused the alleged victim to reasonably fear great bodily harm,
  • Used a weapon in a way that threatened the alleged victim,
  • Injured the alleged victim while coercing or forcing them, or
  • Aided or abetted another person to coerce or force a child into a sex act.

There are some limited exceptions where this charge is not appropriate. Specifically, the state might not pursue these charges when the accused is no more than 36 months older than the alleged victim.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree

The highest level of sex crime under Minnesota law is criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. This offense is governed by Minnesota Statute Section 609.342. The difference between this charge and the second-degree offense is that this charge involves sexual penetration as opposed to sexual contact. The defense of a mistake is not available in these cases.

Penalties for Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

Given that the nature of each type of criminal sexual conduct varies dramatically, it should come as no surprise that the associated penalties with these cases can also vary a great deal. In each case, there is a maximum sentence the court may impose in terms of jail time and fines. These offenses are primarily treated as felonies under the law, except for fifth-degree sexual conduct. This type of charge is often considered a misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for each offense include:

  • 5th Degree – One year in jail and $3,000 fine
  • 4th Degree – 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine
  • 3rd Degree – 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine
  • 2nd Degree – 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine
  • 1st Degree – 30 years in prison and $40,000 fine

Jail time and fines are only part of the consequences that can come with a conviction for criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota. These convictions also result in a minimum amount of time on the sex offender registry, which can have a tremendous negative impact on your life moving forward. Like with all penalties, you must first be convicted of criminal sexual conduct in order to face these requirements.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges

The penalties associated with criminal sexual conduct are serious. Any risk of incarceration should be taken seriously, especially in cases where you could be behind bars for decades at a time. You have the right to seek out legal counsel to help you protect your rights when facing these charges. The right attorney could make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case.

Are you not sure what happens when charged with Criminal sexual conduct? A conviction can change your life forever. That said, a strong defense could help you avoid a conviction and any consequences that you might have faced. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you but that defense. Reach out as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Related Content: What is Considered a Sex Crime in Minnesota?


About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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