Is There a Statute of Limitations on MN Sex Crimes?

In Minnesota, prosecutors aggressively pursue sex crime cases to bring those who commit them to justice. Their work was aided last year by the lifting of the statute of limitations on sex crimes in the state.

As of September 2021, sexual contact and sexual conduct crimes in the first through the fourth degree in the state have no statute of limitations. What does this mean, and how can it impact a sex crimes case that you may be involved in? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more!

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is the amount of time prosecutors have to bring charges against a person for a crime. After the statute of limitations has expired, a person cannot be lawfully charged with a crime even if they are guilty of it.

The idea behind statutes of limitation is that witnesses for some crimes several years after the fact aren’t credible any longer, evidence can be lost, and memories of what exactly happened fade. Because of this, a person is often barred from being prosecuted for certain crimes under the law.

Previously, Minnesota had to prosecute a sex crime within three years or nine years, depending on the crime in question. Now, there is no statute of limitations for many sex crimes in the state, and prosecutors can bring a case against someone no matter how much time has passed – if they think they have a solid case to secure a conviction.

Degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

As mentioned, the statute of limitations was eliminated for sex crimes in the first through the fourth degree in Minnesota. Here is a breakdown of the different degrees of these crimes:

First Degree

For first-degree criminal sexual conduct, sexual penetration must be involved along with one or more of the following circumstances:

  • The defendant is at least three years older than the victim who is under the age of 13
  • The defendant is four years older or in a position of authority of a victim between the ages of 13 and 15
  • The defendant uses force, coercion, threats, bodily harm or injury, or commits several acts over time against a victim who is under age 16 and with whom they have a significant relationship
  • The victim was placed in fear of great bodily harm
  • A dangerous weapon was used or threatened to be used in the crime
  • The victim was injured and coercion or force was used or the victim was mentally incapacitated, impaired, or physically helpless during the crime
  • The defendant had another person help them use a dangerous weapon or force in the commission of the crime

Second Degree

This level of sex crime follows the same guidelines as first-degree sexual conduct, but sexual penetration is not involved – simply sexual contact.

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Third Degree

This level of a sex crime is similar to first-degree as well in that it involves sexual penetration. However, sexual penetration must occur in conjunction with one or more of the following:

  • The defendant is less than three years older than the victim, who is under the age of 13
  • The defendant is two years older than the victim, who is between 13 and 15 years old
  • The defendant has a significant relationship with the victim who is between 16 and 17 or is in a position of authority over them and uses coercion, force, threats of bodily harm, a weapon, or causes injury to them

Fourth Degree

This level follows the same guidelines as third-degree but involves sexual contact instead of sexual penetration.

About the Author:

Andrew T. Poole is a Minnesota native who has served in the Army for more than 18 years and is currently a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserves in addition to serving as a partner at LaCourse, Poole & Envall. He has handled thousands of criminal and family law cases over the course of his career and has a firm belief that all hardworking Minnesotans should be entitled to the best possible legal counsel. Mr. Poole boasts a 10/10 Superb rating on Avvo, is Lead Counsel rated, and has been recognized multiple times by SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and others for his work.