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Everything You Need to Know About Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

Jun 24, 2024 | Criminal Sexual Conduct

Criminal sexual conduct is a serious offense with life-changing legal consequences. In Minnesota, these offenses are categorized into five degrees, each with specific definitions and corresponding penalties. This article provides a comprehensive overview of these degrees, highlighting the elements that constitute each offense and the potential punishments.

First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Definition: First-degree criminal sexual conduct involves sexual penetration or contact with a person under specific aggravating circumstances. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, situations where the victim is under the age of 14, where the perpetrator uses a dangerous weapon, causes fear of imminent great bodily harm, or personal injury, uses coercion or force, or the victim is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, physically helpless, or otherwise unable to consent. There are additional violations for certain age differences between the complainant and the alleged actor.

Penalties: The penalties for first-degree criminal sexual conduct are severe. Conviction can result in imprisonment for up to 30 years, with a presumptive guideline sentence of at least 12 years in prison if aggravating factors are present. Additionally, fines can reach up to $40,000.

Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Definition: Second-degree criminal sexual conduct involves sexual contact (as opposed to penetration) with a person under similar aggravating circumstances as first-degree offenses. This includes situations where the victim is under 14 years old, the use of force or coercion, or the victim’s incapacity to consent.

Penalties: A conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 25 years and fines of up to $35,000. Mandatory minimum sentences apply if aggravating factors are present, typically starting at seven years.


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Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Definition: Third-degree criminal sexual conduct includes sexual penetration with a person under certain circumstances. This can involve accusers younger than 14, 16, or 18 depending on how far apart in age the accuser is from the alleged perpetrator. Third-degree criminal sexual conduct can also arise in situations involving a significant relationship (such as step-parent, employer, teacher, or coach), or the use of force or coercion.

Penalties: Third-degree offenses include up to 15 years of imprisonment and fines up to $30,000. When certain aggravating factors are present, mandatory minimum sentences may apply, often around four years.

Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Definition: Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct pertains to sexual contact under circumstances similar to those described in third-degree offenses but without penetration. This can involve accusers younger than 14, 16, or 18 depending on the age difference between the accuser and the alleged perpetrator, or situations involving force or coercion.

Penalties: Convictions can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years and fines up to $20,000. Mandatory minimum sentences typically start at three years if aggravating factors are present.

Fifth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Definition: Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct involves non-consensual sexual contact or the non-consensual touching of intimate parts, as well as the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering intimate parts. It also covers situations where an individual engages in a lewd exhibition or conduct in the presence of a minor.

Penalties: This is typically categorized as a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $3,000. However, repeat offenses can elevate the crime to a felony, carrying heavier penalties and longer imprisonment.

Conclusion

Understanding the degrees of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota is crucial for both legal professionals and the general public. The distinctions between the degrees are based on the nature of the act, the age and relationship of the victim, and the presence of aggravating factors. 

A false accusation can be devastating, from the stress of the event to potential consequences such as prison, loss of a job, and public shaming. The penalties reflect the severity of each offense, aiming to protect victims and deter potential offenders. In addition, people found guilty of criminal sexual conduct will often have to register as a predatory offender (sex offender) and face a period of conditional release. If you or someone you know is facing charges related to criminal sexual conduct, it is imperative to seek experienced legal counsel to navigate the complexities of these laws effectively. At Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense, we have years of experience and successful results, including dismissals and trial wins, protecting people accused of criminal sexual conduct.

References

  • Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 609: Criminal Code
  • Minnesota Department of Corrections
  • Legal resources and case law analyses

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