Sexual Misconduct in the News
If you’ve watched the news in the last few months then you’ve heard about a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct. The recent fallout began with accusations against Harvey Weinstein (Hollywood Producer) and most recently against Matt Lauer (NBC News Anchor). Other celebrity figures include Kevin Spacey (Actor), Louis C.K. (Comedian) and Senator Al Franken (U.S. Senator for Minnesota), among others. The accusations of sexual misconduct range from lewd behavior or text messages to rape.
Civil vs. Criminal Law
The greatest differences between civil and criminal law are how the case is initiated and the level of punishment imposed. In civil cases, when a victim files a “lawsuit” and proves that the defendant is “liable” (committed the wrongful act) for the act, the defendant must pay damages (money) for the harm caused to the victim. In criminal cases, it is the government that files “charges” and must prove that a defendant is “guilty” of the offense. If successful, the defendant can face lengthy jail or prison time, as well as payment of a fine.
Importantly, civil and criminal cases run independent of one another — meaning success in one does not determine the outcome in the other and the punishments are completely separate. Think of the famous O.J. Simpson case. O.J. was found “not guilty” of the criminal murder charges, but was found “liable” for the wrongful death of his wife.
Civilly, “sexual harassment” is a type of sex discrimination involving “verbal or physical abuse of a sexual nature.” While sexual harassment often occurs in employment situations, under Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 363A.02) it may also occur in education, housing, and public accommodations and services. In addition, a victim may file a civil lawsuit for personal injury related to sexual assault or emotional distress.
Minnesota Criminal Laws Addressing Sexual Misconduct
There are several criminal laws in Minnesota that address sexual misconduct, including the alleged conduct of the above-named celebrities. Many of Minnesota’s sexual-misconduct statutes are felony level offenses — the most severe offense level in Minnesota. In addition to facing lengthy jail time, if you are convicted (found guilty) of most of these offenses you may also be required to register as a sex offender.
First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.342.
First degree is the most serious level of the offense. This usually includes forced intercourse with a person age 16 or older in which the victim has fear of imminent bodily harm, the perpetrator uses a dangerous weapon to force the victim to consent, or the perpetrator causes bodily harm to the victim. Also prohibited is any form of sexual contact if the victim is under 13 and the perpetrator is at least 36 months older, in a position of authority, or has a significant relationship with the child. The penalty for this degree is up to 30 years imprisonment, a fine up to $40,000, or both.
Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.343.
This offense usually includes the same or similar circumstances described in first degree conduct except that it involves sexual contact instead of penetration. The penalty is up to 25 years imprisonment, a fine up to $35,000, or both.
Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.344.
This offense generally includes various acts involving juveniles that are considered less serious than those covered by first degree sexual conduct. There are two common situations. First, is what is commonly referred to as “statutory rape.” This means that the conduct may seem consensual but the victim was not old enough to legally consent. Second, is the situation where the victim is not able to consent due to intoxication or coercion. It also includes penetration of any age if force or coercion is used. The penalty is up to 15 years imprisonment, a fine up to $30,000, or both.
Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.345.
This is similar to the circumstances descried under third degree, except that it involves acts of sexual contact instead of penetration. The penalty is imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine up to $20,000, or both. If the victim is 13-15 years old and the actor is less than 4 years older, the penalty cannot exceed 5 years imprisonment.
Fifth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.3451.
Unlike first through fourth degree conduct, this offense is not a felony for a first time violation. This offense includes conduct related to nonconsensual sexual contact with another. It also prohibits the actor from engaging in masturbation or lewd exhibition of the genitals when a minor is present (under the age of 16).
Soliciting Minor to Engage in Sexual Conduct. See Minn. Stat. § 609.352.
This includes soliciting (commanding or persuading) a minor to engage in sexual conduct (contact or penetration). This includes whether it is in person or through the use of electronic devices. This section also prohibits sending distributing sexually related media to minors.
Harassment. See Minn. Stat. § 609.748.
This includes: (1) a single incident of physical or sexual assault; (2) a single incident of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images under section 617.261; or (3) repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the parties. The severity level of this offense ranges from misdemeanor to felony.
Indecent Exposure. See Minn. Stat. § 617.23.
This offense prohibits the actor from lewdly exposing their body or private parts where others are present. It also prohibits the actor from engaging in lewdness or lascivious behavior, or any public indecency. The severity level of this offense ranges from misdemeanor to felony.
If You Are Facing Criminal Charges Due to Allegations of Sexual Misconduct You Need Experienced Representation
Sexual misconduct allegations may not only result in termination of your employment or a lawsuit against you, but you could also face significant criminal penalties. If you face sexual misconduct charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.
The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.