Minnesota Sex Crimes: Your Frequently Asked Questions

Being arrested for a sexual conduct offense in Minnesota is a difficult and alarming situation to go through. You may have many questions about being arrested and what that can mean for your future.

In Minnesota, there are several consequences that can occur when someone is charged with a sexual conduct crime. Several factors play a role in charges and penalties of these crimes, and that often leaves people with numerous questions.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about sex crimes in Minnesota to help you understand what these types of charges mean and how they can impact your future.

What Does Minnesota Consider a Sex Crime?

In Minnesota, different degrees of criminal sexual conduct encompass many different actions of behaviors. If a crime involving sex occurs without consent, then it could lead to charges of criminal sexual conduct, such as:

Fifth Degree Sexual Conduct

This involves sexual contact as well as other types of lewd sexual conduct. It is non-consensual sexual interaction that includes showing genitalia to another or masturbating in front of them. It could also involve non-consensual touching of body parts with what is considered to be malicious sexual intent.

Fourth Degree Sexual Conduct

This includes certain types of sexual conduct that do not include penetration, simply sexual contact. The same types of behaviors punished in third-degree sexual conduct are punished by fourth-degree sexual conduct; they simply don’t involve penetration.

Third Degree Sexual Conduct

This level of sexual conduct involves offenses like sexual penetration of a minor, sexual penetration by a person in a position of authority, and sexual penetration with the use of alcohol or other substances, in which the victim could not give adequate consent.

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Second Degree Sexual Conduct

This follows similar guidelines as first-degree sexual conduct in Minnesota but without sexual penetration. It is simply sexual contact with a minor, through coercion or threats, or committed against someone who is physically helpless or mentally unstable.

First Degree Sexual Conduct

This is the most serious degree of criminal sexual conduct. These crimes involve:

  • Sexual penetration against minors
  • Victims over whom the accused is in a position of authority
  • Sexual penetration with the use of coercion or force
  • Victims who cannot give consent due to being physically helpless or mentally unstable.

This is the level of the offense most often used in cases of rape, child sexual abuse, and child molestation.

What Are the Penalties Associated with Criminal Sexual Conduct?

Each level of offense has its own associated penalties. They are:

  • Fifth-degree sexual conduct – Up to 12 months in prison and fines of $3,000. For a repeat offender, it can become a felony charge with a penalty of as much as seven years in prison and fines of $14,000.
  • Fourth-degree sexual conduct – This can result in as many as 10 years in prison and fines of $20,000. A conviction of this level of crime also often requires the convicted individual to register as a sex offender for up to 10 years after release from prison.
  • Third-degree sexual conduct – The penalty for this degree is as many as 15 years in prison, fines of as much as $30,000, and the requirement to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment, and be monitored by authorities for up to 10 years.
  • Second-degree sexual conduct – The penalties associated with this degree of sexual conduct could be a prison sentence of as many as 25 years and fines of $35,000. The convicted person will also be required to complete treatment for sex offenders. They will be monitored by authorities after release from prison.
  • First-degree sexual conduct – A prison sentence of 30 years, plus fines of $40,000, can be handed down for this offense. The minimum time a person can serve in prison for this level of crime is 12 years, after which they’ll continue to be monitored by the state and undergo treatment for sex offenders.

What Is Consent?

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The crimes associated with criminal sexual conduct involve consent, so it’s an important element to understand.

Yes, a person can say they didn’t consent to the sexual conduct that leads to charges, but there are also times where a person is considered to legally be unable to give consent. These include:

  • Someone under the legal age of consent in Minnesota, which is 16 (but increases to 18 if the accused is in a position of authority over the victim)
  • Someone who is physically helpless
  • Someone who has been incapacitated mentally by drugs, alcohol, or other means
  • Someone with a profound intellectual or mental disability


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.