What is the Age of Consent in Minnesota?

While the question is simple, the answer is a bit more complicated.  Generally, a person must be at least 16-years old to consent to sex in Minnesota.  However, there are a number of factors that could raise the age to 18-years —described below.  The only certainty is that no one under 13 years old can consent to sex.  For those between the ages of 13 and 18, valid consent depends on the age difference and/or relationship between the parties.

As a background, Minnesota has five-degrees of criminal sexual conduct.  First degree is the most severe and fifth degree is the least severe.  Further, first and third degrees deal with “sexual penetration” (statutory definition), while second and fourth degrees deal with “sexual contact” (statutory definition).

Romeo and Juliet Laws

In Minnesota, “Romeo and Juliet” laws protect those who are close in age, but where one party has not reached 16-years (age of consent).  Below, describes how the age differences between the parties affects the severity level of the crime.

First and Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

A person is guilty of this crime if:

  • The person is under 13-years old AND the actor is more than 36-months older; or
  • The person 13, 14 or 15 years old AND the actor is more than 48-months older AND in a position of authority (described below).

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Penetration)

A person is guilty of this crime if:

  • The person is under 13-years old AND the actor is no more than 36-months older; or
  • The person is 13, 14, or 15 years old AND the actor is more than 24-month older.

Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (Contact Only)

A person is guilty of this crime if:

  • The person is under 13-years old AND the actor is no more than 36-months older; or
  • The person is 13, 14, or 15 years old AND the actor is more than 48-months older or in a position of authority.

The most important take away is that the protection under the “Romeo and Juliet” laws depends on whether the conduct involved sexual penetration or contact.  In addition, both parties must be at least 13-years old.  If the conduct involved penetration then it is not a crime so long the actor is no more than 24-months older.  If the conduct involved sexual contact then it is not a crime so long as the actor is no more than 48-months older.

Position of Authority

Under Minnesota Statute Section 609.341, subd. 11 this includes, but is not limited to, any person who is a parent or guardian of a child, or a person who is charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, welfare, or supervision of a child.  It does not matter if the duties were jointly shared or how brief, at the time of the act.  This commonly includes parents, step-parents, guardians, teachers, doctors, therapists and counselors.

Below is a brief description of how this status becomes a criminal offense.

First and Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

A person is guilty of either of these crimes if:

  • The person is 13, 14, 0r 15 years old; AND
  • The actor is more than 48-months older; AND
  • The actor is in a position of authority.

Third and Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

A person is guilty of either of these crimes if:

  • The person is 16 or 17 years old; AND
  • The actor is in a position of authority.

**NOTE: It is also a fourth-degree crime if the person is 13-15 years old and the person is in a position of authority.

Significant Relationship

Under Minnesota Statute Section 609.341, subd. 15, this status also includes parents, stepparents and guardians.  Further, this status expands upon “position of authority,” to include any of the following persons related to the child by either blood, marriage or adoption: siblings; step siblings; first cousins; aunt or uncle; niece or nephew; grandparents; great grandparents; or great-uncles/aunts.  Finally, beyond those already described, this status also includes any person who resides in the same dwelling as the child, either permanently or intermittently.

In regards to First and Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a significant relationship is criminal if the person is under 16-years old AND the actor fits into any of the above-stated categories.  When it comes to Third and Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a significant relationship is criminal if: the person is 16 or 17 years old; AND the actor fits into any of the above-state categories; AND force/coercion was used.

If You Are Charged with a Sex Crime You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Minnesota’s Criminal Sexual Conduct laws are very complex and intimidating.  A conviction, or charges alone, can have lasting, significant consequences on your life.  It important to get out in front of these charges and to seek help immediately.  The attorneys at Sieben and Cotter decades of combined experience dealing with the intricacies of these laws.  We have a proven success record fighting and winning these types of cases.

Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.