What is the Age of Consent in Minnesota?

 In Law Articles

As a criminal defense attorney in Stearns, Hennepin, and surrounding Minnesota counties, potential clients often ask me specific questions about whether certain behavior or activities may be illegal. Prosecutors in Stearns, Benton, Sherburne, Mille Lacs, Dakota and Hennepin counties frequently file criminal charges against individuals having consensual sexual contact with minor children, commonly known as “statutory rape.”

The “age of consent” is the minimum age at which a person has the legal ability to consent to sexual activity. Generally, the age of consent in Minnesota is 16 years of age. Meaning, except under certain circumstances, any 16-year-old can legally consent to sexual activity with any other consenting person.

However, there are circumstances where consensual sexual activity with someone over 16 years of age is still illegal if the defendant is in a position of authority over the minor–a teacher, parent, coach or priest, for example.

Degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct

In Minnesota, there are four degrees of criminal sexual conduct involving statutory rape. The most serious felony is First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. This occurs when there is “sexual penetration” involving:

  • a minor under the age of 13 and a defendant who is three or more years older, or
  • a minor who is at least 13 years old but under the age of 16 and a defendant who is four or more years older and is in a position of authority over the minor.

“Sexual penetration” is defined in Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 12 and includes vaginal, anal or oral penetration.

Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct occurs when there is sexual contact (not penetration) and involves:

  • a minor under the age of 13 and the defendant is three or more years older, or
  • a child at least 13 years old but under the age of 16 and the defendant is more than four years older and in a position of authority over the child.

“Sexual contact” is defined in Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11 and includes the intentional touching of any intimate body part.

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct occurs when there is sexual penetration and involves:

  • a minor under the age of 13 and the defendant is not more than three years older, or
  • a minor over the age of 13 but under the age of 16 and the defendant is more than two years older, or
  • a minor at least 16 but under the age of 18 and the defendant is in a position of authority and more than four years older.

Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct occurs when there sexual contact (not penetration) and involves:

  • a minor under the age of 13 and the defendant is not more than three years older, or
  • a minor at least 13 years old but under the age of 16 and the defendant is more than four years older or in a position of authority, or
  • a minor at least 16 years old but under the age of 18 and the defendant is in a position of authority over the child and more than four years older.

Penalties and Defenses

The penalties for anyone convicted of criminal sexual conduct are severe and vary from case to case. The most serious cases involve potentially up to 30 years in prison. Other cases deemed less serious may involve a jail sentence at a county jail and/or supervised probation.

Individuals accused of “statutory rape” have defenses recognized by Minnesota’s courts. A common defense is that the defendant had no reason to know or believe that the other person was underage. If charged with an offense against a person under age 16, a defendant may be able to successfully argue that the other person represented that he or she was older and that a reasonable person under the circumstances would have believed him or her.

In Minnesota, a reasonable mistake of age can be a defense to a statutory rape charge under certain, limited circumstances. However, in other circumstances, such as when the minor child is under 13 years of age and the defendant is more than 3 years older, neither mistake of age or consent by the minor is a defense.

If you are facing a statutory rape charge in Stearns, Hennepin or any Minnesota county, you should immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case, assist with an independent investigation, and negotiate with the prosecutor to try and get your case dismissed or the criminal charges reduced.

Call Neuville Law Office right now for an immediate, free consultation of your case.

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