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What is Considered a Sex Crime in Minnesota?

Facing any type of criminal charge could be a tremendous burden on you and the people that you love. Despite the hardships that can follow any arrest, allegations of sex crimes can be especially damaging. In fact, you could deal with the serious consequences of an arrest for sex crimes long before you are ever convicted of any wrongdoing.

The term “sex crime” applies to numerous criminal acts. In fact, the term is not found in Minnesota law at all. However, there are general sex offenses under the law that covers any potential sex-related criminal acts.

There are steep consequences that come with a sex crimes conviction, but you have an opportunity to defend yourself against these charges. An aggressive defense strategy could put you in a position to avoid the life-altering consequences of a sex crimes conviction. Reach out to the attorney of Gerald Miller as soon as possible.


Most Sex Crime Convictions Last Forever

Like most states, Minnesota has a process that allows individuals to request that their criminal conviction be expunged. Expungement allows a person to act as if their conviction never occurred. It can make a tremendous difference in their personal and professional life, as they can answer truthfully on a resume or rental application that they are not convicted felons.

Expungements are not available in all cases. The law treats certain offenses as inherently disqualifying, meaning that the courts are prohibited from expunging a conviction. Sex crimes fall into that category.

Once a person has been convicted of a sex crime in Minnesota, that conviction will typically follow them forever. These permanent consequences are why it is important to fight back against a sex crime conviction from the very beginning. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could help you develop the best defense available to avoid a conviction.


How Sex Crimes in Minnesota Work

Many states adopt a wide variety of criminal statutes that cover specific sex offenses. Minnesota does not follow that model. Instead of numerous statutes for offenses like rape or sexual abuse, Minnesota has adopted a broad system known as criminal sexual conduct. There are five categories of criminal sexual conduct in total. First-degree criminal sexual conduct carries the steepest penalties, while fifth-degree offers the lowest penalties.


First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is a serious felony that covers a wide range of actions. Each of these offenses involves some form of sexual penetration. However, there must also be additional elements present to qualify as first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Some examples include:

  • Sexual contact with a person younger than 13 years of age
  • Sexual contact with a person that is mentally unstable or physically helpless
  • Sexual contact with a person that felt unsafe due to the threat of bodily harm
  • Sexual contact with a minor aged between 13 and 16 by a person at least four years older

These charges are often brought in cases that involve child molestation or abuse. The maximum jail term for a conviction for first-degree criminal sexual assault is 30 years. A conviction also brings a maximum fine of $40,000. There is a minimum sentence of at least 12 years in prison for this offense.


Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Second-degree criminal sexual conduct has a lot in common with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. This offense applies in the same circumstances including victims that were under the age of 13 or that are mentally unstable.

The major difference between first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct is the sexual act itself. While first-degree offenses always involve sexual penetration, second-degree offenses do not. This offense brings a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000.


Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is essentially the crime of statutory rape. This criminal offense covers the sexual penetration of a minor by a person that was close to their age. Third-degree criminal sexual conduct also covers sexual penetration by persons in a position of power. Some examples include correctional facility staff or clergy members. The penalty for a third-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction includes a maximum prison term of 15 years and a fine of no more than $30,000.


Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct covers most of the same circumstances as a third-degree offense. The important difference is that a fourth-degree offense does not involve sexual penetration. Instead, any sexual contact outside of penetration could qualify for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. A conviction could lead to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.


Fifth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

The lowest tier of sex crime under Minnesota state law is fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. This offense covers non-consensual sexual touching or acts of lewdness around children. A conviction could bring up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $14,000.


Federal Sex Crimes

Not all sex-related offenses are limited to state prosecutions. Federal law also covers numerous sex offenses. Unlike under Minnesota law, federal statutes cover a broad range of very specific criminal allegations. Some of the most common examples of federal sex crimes include:

  1. Child sexual assault and rape;
  2. Sexual exploitation of a child, through coercion, bribery, or enticement
  3. Sexual abuse of a minor or ward;
  4. Purchase or sale of a child for sexual reasons;
  5. Possession or distribution of child pornography;
  6. Aggravated sexual abuse involving the using of force, fear, or threats of bodily injury;
  7. Human trafficking;
  8. Sexual abuse resulting in death;
  9. Sexual crimes crossing state lines;
  10. Sexual crimes on federal land or territory.

The penalties for federal sex crimes vary, but they frequently include mandatory minimum sentencing. This means that a conviction must lead to some form of incarceration. The ultimate penalties issued in these cases will largely depend on federal sentencing guidelines. Sex offenses targeting children often lead to substantial mandatory minimums. In some cases, a conviction could require at least 15 years in federal prison.


Federal Sex Offense Registry

Just like on the state level, there is also a federal sex offense registry. A conviction for a federal sex crime will require you to comply with something known as the National Sex Offender Registration. This is in addition to any sex offender registration mandated by state law.

Federal law categorizes sex offenders into three different tiers based on the severity of their crimes. These tiers are used to identify the severity of the federal sex crime. What’s more, the tier determines how long a person must remain on the registry.

  • A Tier I sex offender must stay on the registry for 15 years
  • A Tier II sex offender must stay on the registry for 25 years
  • A Tier III sex offender must stay on the registry for life


Common Sex Crime Defenses

There are numerous potential defenses to sex crimes on both the state and federal levels. Each of these defenses might not apply in every case, but they could make a tremendous difference under certain circumstances.

Determining the appropriate defense strategy in your sex offense case is crucial, and it should not be done without the guidance of an experienced attorney. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could review your case and help you identify the best defense strategy based on the facts of your case.

  • Consent is a common defense in sex crimes. Most sex crimes involve the lack of consent or some other unwanted sexual act. By establishing consent, a person accused of a sex crime could avoid a conviction.
  • Reasonable Doubt. It is not the defendant’s job to prove their innocence. Instead, the state has the burden of proof in a sex crime prosecution. If there is reasonable doubt as to guilt, an acquittal is in order.
  • Entrapment occurs when a person is forced or coerced into committing a crime they would not have otherwise committed.


Contact a Minnesota Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

The accusation of a sex offense is something that no one ever wants to face. If you find yourself in this position, remember that you can seek legal help. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to stand by you throughout your case. Call as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Related Content: How does Minnesota Define Consent?

About the author

Brodie Hacken

Brodie is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota with 15 years of experience. He is passionate about protecting the rights of his clients and ensuring they receive the best possible representation. When he's not in the courtroom, Brodie enjoys spending time with his family and playing golf.

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