Criminal Sexual Conduct

In the state of Minnesota, criminal sexual conduct is classified under five categories. These categories are quite complicated and intricate but are essentially ranked according to the seriousness of the crime. The rankings depend on the nature of the alleged actions taken and the type of evidence that has been gathered to support the allegations. The charge will also be affected by any prior convictions on the accused’s criminal record.

If you are being charged with criminal sexual conduct, you will need experienced legal representation to work through the challenging legal process these charges will bring. Ringstrom Law will provide you the legal help you need to prevail at trial or to have these charges reduced or possibly dismissed.

Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree

First-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.342) is the most severe charge for a criminal sexual conduct crime. This level of conduct applies the following criminal activity: 

  • Having made sexual contact or having sex with a person who is under the age of 13, and the actor is more than 36 months older than the victim
  • Having had sex with a victim who is between the ages of 13 and 16 years old, and the offender is 48 months older than the victim
  • A sex act that occurred under circumstances where the victim feared serious bodily harm to him or herself or to another person
  • A sex act that occurred where the actor used a dangerous weapon or what appeared to be a dangerous weapon to obtain submission from the victim
  • A sex act that was accomplished through injury to the victim and either used force or coercion to complete the act or the victim was mentally or physically incapacitated
  • A sex act that was accomplished through the assistance of an accomplice either using force or coercion to obtain the victim’s submission or what appeared to be a dangerous weapon
  • Having had sex with a person who is under the age of 16 and it is determined the offender has had a significant relationship with the victim
  • A significant relationship is defined as being a guardian, stepparent, or parent to the victim. It also includes any persons related to the alleged victim by marriage, blood, or adoption. It includes persons such as a stepsister, stepbrother, first cousin, nephew, uncle, grandparent, great-grandparent, great-aunt, great-uncle, sister, or brother. 
  • A significant relationship also includes someone who regularly or intermittently resides in the same dwelling as the alleged victim, but is not a spouse to the parent.
  • When there is a significant relationship, this charge will also result if:
    • The actor or an accomplice used force or coercion to gain submission
    • The victim suffered personal injury
    • Multiple acts were committed over time

The act of first-degree criminal sexual conduct is most often charged when forced rape, child molestation, or child sexual abuse has occurred. The defenses of not knowing the victim’s age or consent by the victim are never applicable in a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge involving a minor. If charged with first-degree criminal misconduct, a defendant is facing up to 30 years in prison, which could be extended if there are other aggravating factors present in the case, and a fine of $40,000.

This charge is extremely serious with life-altering consequences. You will want the experienced defense attorneys of Ringstrom Law to help you through the complicated legal process as well as the emotional weight of being charged with this type of crime. 

Criminal Sexual Conduct, Second Degree

A charge of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.343) applies to all the situations listed under the first-degree charge, but there is no accusation of sexual penetration to the alleged victim. The following situations are considered second-degree criminal sexual conduct:

  • An alleged victim who is under the age of 13 and the offender is more than 36 months older than the victim 
  • An alleged victim is between the ages of 13 and 16, and the offender is more than 48 months older than the victim and holds a certain amount of authority over the victim 
  • The alleged victim has reason to fear imminent bodily harm to him or herself or others at the time criminal sexual conduct occurred
  • A dangerous weapon or other factors lead the alleged victim to reasonably believe it would be life-threatening if they did not submit to the sexual act
  • Sexual contact that was accomplished through injury to the victim and either used force or coercion to complete the act or the victim was mentally or physically incapacitated
  • Sexual contact that was accomplished through the assistance of an accomplice either using force or coercion to obtain the victim’s submission or what appeared to be a dangerous weapon
  • Having had sexual contact with a person who is under the age of 16 and it is determined the offender has had a significant relationship with the victim
  • A significant relationship is defined as being a guardian, stepparent, or parent to the victim. It also includes any persons related to the alleged victim by marriage, blood, or adoption. It includes persons such as a stepsister, stepbrother, first cousin, nephew, uncle, grandparent, great-grandparent, great-aunt, great-uncle, sister, or brother. \
  • A significant relationship also includes someone who regularly or intermittently resides in the same dwelling as the alleged victim, but is not a spouse to the parent.
  • When there is a significant relationship, this charge will also result if:
    • The actor or an accomplice used force or coercion to gain submission
    • The victim suffered personal injury
    • Multiple acts were committed over time

If you’re convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, you could face up to 25 years in prison and fines up to $35,000. There could be more severe penalties if aggravated circumstances exist in your case. Just like first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the defenses of not knowing the victim’s age or consent by the victim are never applicable in this charge. 

Having experienced legal counsel from a reliable criminal defense attorney is necessary for anyone facing these charges. Ringstrom Law has the experience and is knowledgeable about Minnesota criminal law. We can help you with these serious charges, taking your case to trial or attempting to reduce the charges or possibly get your case dismissed, depending on your situation.

Criminal Sexual Conduct, Third Degree

A charge of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.344)  involves sexual penetration made under the following circumstances:

  • The alleged victim is under the age of 13 and the offender is no more than 36 months older than the victim
  • The alleged victim is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the offender is more than 24 months older than the victim
  • The actor or an accomplice used force or coercion to complete the act or the victim was mentally or physically incompacitated at the time of the act
  • The alleged victim is at least 16 years of age but not yet 18 years old, and the offender is more than 48 months older than the victim and in an authoritative position over the victim
  • An authoritative position is one in which the offender is in a current position of authority, such as a parent or someone acting in a position of parenting and assuming parental rights, duties, and responsibility for the alleged victim. This authoritative position makes the offender responsible for the welfare, health, and supervision of the alleged victim, whether independently or through another. This supervision would include any amount of time, no matter how brief, and can include time spent with a psychotherapist.
  • The alleged victim is at least 16 years of age, but not older than 18 years of age, the offender has a significant relationship with the victim, and the act is accomplished through force or coercion, there has been injury to the victim, or multiple acts were accomplished
  • The alleged victim is a patient of a therapist, and an active sexual relationship develops between the therapist and patient
  • The offender has a clergy role (that is, formal leadership in a church or other religious institution), and the alleged victim has sought their advice or counsel

Generally, ignorance of the victim’s age or consent by the victim will not be viable defenses under this charge. For a conviction of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, the penalty could be up to a 15-year prison sentence and a fine of $30,000.

If you find yourself charged with criminal sexual conduct, it can be a traumatic experience if you believed that the event in question was a consensual sexual encounter. You will need Ringstrom Law working on your behalf to protect your rights and reputation in this situation. Although mistaken age is not typically a defense to these charges, other defense strategies can be used to get you through the legal process and everything else associated with fighting the charges.

Criminal Sexual Conduct, Fourth Degree

The charge of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.345) involves sexual contact other than penetration and applies under the following circumstances:

  • Sexual contact is made with another who is under the age of 13 and the actor is no more than 36 months older than the alleged victim 
  • Sexual contact is made with another who is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years old, and the actor is more than 48 months older than the victim or has recently been in a position of authority over the victim 
  • The offender uses force to complete the sexual contact
  • The offender has reason to know or does actually know the alleged victim is mentally or physically incapacitated
  • The offender is at least 16 years of age but less than 18 years old, and the offender is more than 48 months older than the alleged victim and is in a position of authority or was recently in such a position
  • The offender has a significant relationship with the alleged victim, the victim was at least 16 years of age but under 18 years old when the sexual contact occurred, and contact was obtained through force or coercion, the victim suffered physical injury, or multiple acts occurred over time
  • The actor is a therapist, and the alleged victim was a patient of the therapist when the sexual contact occurred, either during or outside of therapy; this includes sexual contact where the alleged victim is a former patient of the therapist upon whom the patient is emotionally dependent
  • Sexual conduct is made through deception to make the alleged victim believe the contact is for medical purposes 
  • The actor is a clergy member and the contact occurs during a session where the victim sought spiritual advice, comfort, or aid; the sexual conduct could also have occurred with a clergyperson during an ongoing basis in which the victim received religious or spiritual advice, comfort, or aid in private 
  • The actor is an employee, contractor, or volunteer of a city, state, county, or privately operated facility (for example, juvenile or adult correction facilities and mental health facilities) and the victim resides at the facility
  • Sexual contact is made by someone who provides massage or bodywork services and the victim is a client
  • Sexcual contact is made by a person providing special transportation services to the victim
  • Sexual contact is made by a peace officer and the victim reasonably feels unable to leave the officer’s presence

The consent of the alleged victim is not allowed as a defense for this charge. A conviction of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree carries a penalty up to 10 years in prison, along with a possible fine of $20,000.

Criminal Sexual Conduct, Fifth Degree

Under the laws of Minnesota, criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.3451) occurs in two types of scenarios:

  • An actor engages in nonconsensual sexual contact
  • An actor engages in lewd exhibition or masturbation while in the presence of a minor under the age of 16 and has reason to believe or know the minor is in their presence

Sexual contact involves the actor touching the victim’s intimate parts or requiring the victim to touch another’s intimate parts. It also includes the attempted removal or intentional removal of clothing covering the victim’s private parts.

Typically a first-time offense of this nature is charged at the gross misdemeanor level. If convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree as a gross misdemeanor, you could be sentenced with up to a one-year prison term and fines up to $3,000. On the other hand, criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree is charged as a felony if the offender has a previous conviction on a similar charge. If convicted of a fifth-degree felony, you could face up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $14,000. 

Criminal sexual conduct charges are some of the most serious crimes in Minnesota. Not only are those convicted facing lengthy prison sentences, but registration requirements are also triggered. Having to register as a “predatory offender” (an umbrella term in Minnesota that includes people convicted of criminal sexual conduct) is a consequence to be avoided whenever possible because of how damaging it can be to a person’s life. 

It is essential that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney working with you through this difficult legal process. Trial components such as witness testimony, the out-of-court statements of alleged victims, and any prior sexual history are all hard to navigate, and it takes a knowledgeable attorney in Minnesota law to help you through this process. Ringstrom Law has the expertise it will take to defend you against these charges.

What Happens When You’re Convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

It is often an extremely frightening experience to be arrested by the police for a sexual conduct offense, and it is even more frightening to be convicted of this charge. In Minnesota, there are five levels of criminal sexual conduct, which have been defined above. Each of these levels carries possible prison time as well as significant fines.

The first and third-degree charges normally involve sexual penetration, most often with a minor involved, and the second, fourth, and fifth degrees involve sexual contact. First degree through fourth degree are charged as felonies, whereas the fifth degree may be charged either as a felony or as a gross misdemeanor. It is possible to be charged with one or more offenses. For example, the same incident could lead to two separate counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, or to one count in the first degree and one in the second degree. 

The maximum sentencing and fines for each degree of criminal sexual conduct for first-time offenders is as follows:

  • First Degree is a 30-year prison sentence with a possible fine up to $40,000
  • Second Degree is a 25-year prison sentence with a possible fine up to $35,000
  • Third Degree is a 15-year prison sentence with a possible fine up to $30,000
  • Fourth Degree is a 10-year prison sentence with a possible fine up to $20,000
  • Fifth Degree is a one-year jail sentence with a possible fine up to $3,000

The prosecution is able to allege the presence of a “heinous element” in the commission of the crime if they have evidence of any of the following:

  • Torture of the victim
  • Intentional infliction of great bodily harm on the victim
  • Intentional mutilation of victim
  • Exposure of the victim to extremely inhumane conditions
  • Use of a dangerous weapon
  • Multiple victims
  • Multiple perpetrators
  • Movement of the victim from one place to another without release in a safe place
  • Previous convictions of criminal sexual conduct

The presence of one or more “heinous elements” in the commission of criminal sexual conduct justifies an upward departure for purposes of sentencing after a conviction, which can result in a mandatory life sentence without release, depending on the facts of the case. (Minn. Stat. § 609.3455)

People convicted of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota may be required to submit to specific assessments prior to their sentencing. The offender is assessed through an independent professional who will make treatment recommendations related to the conviction. The required assessments are sometimes waived if the charge convicted carries a presumptive prison sentence or if there had been an evaluation prior to the conviction. (Minn. Stat. § 609.3457, subd. 1)

In the case of a repeat offender, any offender convicted of new felony-level criminal sexual condcut is subject to a mandatory sex offender assessment at the Minnesota security hospital. This assessment will include a description of facts upon which the treatment recommendations are based and will cover the history of offenses, the current offense’s level of severity, and the offender’s social history. Different tests may be given, but the final recommendations may not be based only on testing results. The court considers the results of the assessment as just one part of sentencing. (Minn. Stat. § 609.3457, subd. 1a

There are certain requirements for criminal sexual conduct convictions that go beyond any prison sentences or fine that must be paid. These requirements include

  • Providing the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension with a biological DNA sample to be filed on their records ( Stat. § 609.117)
  • Registering with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which requires a minimum of 10 years as a registered sex offender, but may be longer under certain circumstances ( Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1b)

Being convicted of criminal sexual conduct has significant consequences. You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you’re arrested for this type of crime in Minnesota. Your attorney will need to know everything about the event and the persons involved in order to mount a successful defense for you. This information will help your attorney protect you from a long prison sentence, substantial fines, and even a ruined reputation that will severely impact your future.

Where Can I Find a Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney Near Me?

Criminal sexual conduct charges have a significant negative impact on your future. You will want a criminal defense attorney working with you as soon as you have been arrested, so that a successful defense strategy can be initiated. Contact Ringstrom Law in Moorhead at 218-284-0484 today and discuss your case so that we can implement a plan for your defense immediately.

MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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