Earlier this week the Minnesota House of Representatives approved major public safety bill aimed at closing several sexual assault loopholes.  The three major changes to Minnesota’s Criminal Sexual Conduct statutes include:

  1. Making it illegal for peace officers to have sex with anyone in custody or anyone who “does not reasonably feel free to leave the officer’s presence;”
  2. Making it illegal for teachers and other school staff to have sex with adult (18 years or older) students; and
  3. Removing the exception for grabbing of the clothed buttocks from the definition of “sexual contact.”

To be clear, only the House of Representatives have approved the proposed changes.  The Senate and the Governor would both have to approve these proposals before they could become law.  If approved, the changes would be applicable to any offense committed on or after August 1, 2018.

Police Officers Will No Longer be Able to Have Sex with Persons in Custody

As of today, there is no law on the books prohibiting an on-duty police officer from having sex with a person in their custody or placed under arrest.  That is, of course, so long as the sexual encounter was consensual.  To be clear, no officer can coerce or force a person in custody to have sex — this is still considered a sexual assault or rape as the law is written today.

The proposed law will read:

whoever engages in sexual contact or penetration with another is guilty of criminal sexual conduct…

if the actor is a peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, subdivision 1, paragraph (c), or a part-time peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, subdivision 1, paragraph (d), and the officer physically or constructively restrains the complainant or the complainant does not reasonably feel free to leave the officer’s presence. Consent by the complainant is not a defense.

It specifically states that consent is not a defense — meaning even if the sex act is consensual it is still a crime.  A police officer who violates this statute will be guilty of either third degree (penetration) or fourth degree (contact) criminal sexual conduct.  If the sex act involved sexual contact without penetration then the maximum penalty is 10 year imprisonment and/or $20,000 fine.  If it involves penetration then the maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment and/or $30,000 fine.

High School Teachers Will No Longer be Legally Allowed to Have Sex with Their Students Over the Age of 18

Did you know that it was legal for teachers, administrators or contractors to legally have sex with their students so long as they were at least 18 years old?! That is, again, so long as the sex was consensual.  The proposed law reads:

whoever engages in sexual contact or penetration with another is guilty of criminal sexual conduct…

at least 16 but less than 21 years of age and a student in a secondary school who has not graduated and received a diploma and the actor is an employee, volunteer, or independent contractor of the secondary school and in a current or recent position of authority over the complainant.

In general, the legal age of consent in Minnesota is 16, but the age is raised to 18 when it involves someone in authority, such as a teacher. The new proposal would raise that to 21 — but only for high school students who haven’t graduated.  The law would also extend the teacher-student sex ban for 120-days after graduation. The penalties are the same as above, where the offense will either be third degree or fourth degree criminal sexual conduct depending on the sexual act(s) committed.

The Definition of Nonconsensual Sexual Contact will be Changed

As of today, it is not a criminal sexual act to touch another’s clothed buttocks.  Just because its not a crime does not mean that you won’t be subject to a sexual harassment or a related claim, so keep that in mind.  The proposed law will read:

A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree if the person engages in nonconsensual sexual contact

For purposes of this section, “sexual contact” means:

(i) the intentional touching by the actor of the complainant’s intimate parts, or
(ii) in any of the cases above, the touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts, or
(iii) the intentional touching with seminal fluid or sperm by the actor of the complainant’s body or the clothing covering the complainant’s body,

but does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks. Sexual contact also includes the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the complainant’s intimate parts or undergarments, and the nonconsensual touching by the complainant of the actor’s intimate parts, effected by the actor, if the action is performed with sexual or aggressive intent.

The language that is crossed out is proposed to be deleted starting August 1st.  This change was influenced due to the recent media reports of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the #metoo movement.  This offense is considered a fifth degree criminal sexual conduct offense. The maximum punishment is up to one year imprisonment and/or $3,000 fine.

Call For a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Case.

Criminal sexual conduct offenses can be very complicated and the laws are constantly evolving.  If you face serious criminal 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.