| Read Time: 6 minutes

Sexual assault, also called criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota, refers to alleged sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim.

Allegations can include:

  • Unwanted sexual touching;
  • Forcing the victim to perform unwanted sexual acts; and 
  • Penetration of the victim’s body.

Minnesota law splits sexual assault into five degrees depending on the circumstances of the alleged act.

First-degree through fourth-degree sexual assault are felonies, while fifth-degree sexual assault is a gross misdemeanor or felony depending on the situation.

If you face sexual assault charges in Minnesota, you should contact or call our sexual assault defense lawyer at (651) 222-6603 as soon as possible.

What Is First-Degree Sexual Assault? 

First Degree sexual assault, known formerly as 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, is the most severe criminal sexual conduct charge the state can bring.

The law covers a wide range of alleged conduct that can provide the state with a basis to file a 1st degree sexual assault charge.

Most allegations of 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct involve penetration with the use of force or coercion, the use of a weapon to accomplish the penetration, or personal injury to an alleged victim.

The law also covers instances of alleged mental impairment, mental incapacitation, or physical helplessness. These instances typically involve allegations of substance use.

First Degree sexual assault laws also cover simliar alleged instances involving an alleged victim under 14 or 16 years of age. 

First-Degree Sexual Assault

First-degree sexual assault is the most serious form of sexual assault in Minnesota.

It involves an allegation of sexual penetration of any person or an allegation of sexual contact with a minor under 13 years old.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a first-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16, the accused was in a position of authority over the victim, and the accused was more than four years older than the victim; or
  • The accused had a dangerous weapon and used or threatened to use the weapon to force the victim to submit to the act.

First-degree sexual assault carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

Second-Degree Sexual Assault

Second-degree sexual assault in Minnesota covers alleged sexual contact under at least one of the circumstances also applicable to first-degree sexual assault.

It carries a maximum punishment of up to 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.

We’ll take care of everything else.

Submit the short form below to setup a consultation.

Third-Degree Sexual Assault

Third-degree sexual assault involves sexual penetration of any person.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a third-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was no more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16 and the accused was more than two years older than the victim; or
  • The accused knew or had reason to know that the victim was mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

Third-degree sexual assault carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Sexual Assault Charges Dismissed

THE CASE: State Dismisses Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Prior of Trial

THE FACTS: Client was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct stemming from an incident with a female in Ramsey county. The client always maintained that the sexual encounter was 100% consensual. The female involved reached out to the client on SnapChat and asked the client if he wanted to hang out. She gave the client her address. The client picked her and her girlfriend up and went over to a friend’s house to hang out. The client and the female eventually engaged in sexual activity in a bedroom of the residence. The client dropped the female and her friend off at the end of the night. St. Paul Police were eventually contacted and the female reported that the client had forced her to engage in sexual activity.

THE DEFENSE: Our investigation revealed that the female had asked our client for money during the drive home at the end of that night. Our client refused to give her any money, insisting that they had never discussed the payment of money for her company. The client insisted that the female was upset that he did not give her any money. After our thorough review of the client’s case materials, the female’s story did not hold up. It became apparent that her version of the alleged incident lacked credibility. The prosecutor ultimately agreed with our position and recognized that the female complainant would not be a credible witness at trial.

CASE RESULT: The prosecutor recognized the unlikelihood of a conviction at trial and dismissed the sexual assault charges prior to trial. The client had a lot at stake. This type of charge carries a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. A sexual assault conviction carries significant consequences, including going to prison, a public background with a stigma of sexual assault, having to register as a sex offender, and a loss of an ability to lawfully possess a firearm. The dismissal was vital to the client’s future.

Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault

Fourth-degree sexual assault involves sexual contact with another person.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a fourth-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was no more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16 and the accused was more than four years older than the victim; or
  • The accused used force or coercion to accomplish the sexual contact.

It carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

What Is 5th-Degree Sexual Assault?

Fifth-degree sexual assault applies to allegations of nonconsensual sexual contact or when an individual engages in non-consensual sexual contact or masturbation in front of a minor under 16.

It is generally a gross misdemeanor offense but can be charged as a felony if the accused has prior sexual assault convictions.

Fifth-Degree Sexual Assault

Acts that constitute an allegation of Minnesota fifth-degree sexual assault include:

  • Nonconsensual sexual contact; or
  • Knowingly masturbating or exposing one’s genitals in the presence of a minor under 16 years old.

When charged as a gross misdemeanor, it carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

When charged as a felony, it carries a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.

Can I Get Sexual Assault Charges Dropped or Reduced?

Depending on the facts of your case, a sexual assault defense attorney might get your sexual assault charges dropped or reduced.

However, getting your charges dropped or reduced can be difficult because key defenses do not apply in sexual assault cases.

For example, consent is not an available defense to allegations involving minors and some cases involving alleged intoxication.

The defense known as “mistake of age” is also generally unavailable in sexual assault charges involving minors.

You should speak with a sexual assault lawyer today to get a betters sense of what defenses are available in your individual case.

Is Sexual Assault a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Almost all sexual assault offenses are felonies in Minnesota.

First through fourth-degree sexual assault are always felony offenses, while fifth-degree sexual assault is typically a gross misdemeanor but can be a felony under certain circumstances.   

What Is the Sentence for Sexual Assault?

Possible sentences vary greatly depending on the type of case and nature of the allegations.

Possible sentences can range from up to a year in jail for a gross misdemeanor conviction to several years in prison for more serious First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct convictions.

Sexual offender registration is also a requirement for certain types of criminal sexual conduct convictions.

How Likely is Jail for Sexual Assault?

The likelihood of a jail or prison sentence will depend on the seriousness of the allegations and the charge filed by the state.

1st and 2nd Degree sexual assault charges carry presumptions of lengthy prison sentences, if convicted.

This means that the law presumes the Judge should order an accused to serve a prison sentence, if convicted.

However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to argue for downward sentencing departures to give you an opportunity at a probationary sentence.

Felony Sexual Battery

In Minnesota, felony sexual battery is classified as criminal sexual conduct and can be charged in the first, second, third, or fourth degree.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious charge and usually requires sexual penetration that puts an alleged victim in reasonable fear of great bodily harm. 

How the Sexual Assault Defense Lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., Can Help You

If you face sexual assault charges in Minnesota, our sexual assault lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., will work to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

We will thoroughly explain your options to you so that you can make informed decisions throughout your case.

We have achieved many positive results for our clients because of our experience in the Minnesota criminal justice system and dedication to our individual clients’ needs.

Contact us online or call (651) 222-6603 today to schedule your free consultation with our criminal defense lawyer.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.