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In the state of Minnesota, criminal sexual conduct offenses are classified by five levels, depending on the severity. Offenses range from first-degree offenses, which are felonies, down to fifth-degree offenses, which are gross misdemeanors.

Sexual conduct offenses are classified by circumstance, available evidence, or any prior criminal sexual offenses the offender might have.

What Is Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Third Degree in Minnesota?

Under Minnesota law, sexual penetration is a third-degree sexual conduct crime under the following circumstances:

  • The victim is under 13 years old, and the offender is no more than three years older;
  • The victim is at least 13 years old, but less than 16 years old and the offender is no more than two years older;
  • The victim is at least 16 years old, but less than 18, and the offender is more than four years older and in a position of authority;
  • The victim is at least 16 years old, but less than 18, and the offender has a significant relationship with the individual;
  • The victim is a patient of a psychotherapist, and there is an active patient-therapist relationship;
  • The offender is a member of the clergy, the victim isn’t married to him or her, and the victim was seeking the offender’s advice or counseling;
  • The offender is an employee or volunteer at a juvenile correctional facility, and the complainant is in custody there; or
  • The actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

While these are the most common circumstances, situations are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

When Alcohol is Involved

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is often seen in situations where alcohol is involved, and an individual complains of sexual misconduct while intoxicated and unable to give consent. When alcohol plays a part and people participate in sex while inebriated, it is challenging to accurately reconstruct the incident.

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Dismissed

State Dismisses 3rd Degree Sexual Assault Charge Prior to Trial

THE FACTS: Client was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. The client and a female friend had spent the night hanging out together. They knew each prior to the night of the alleged incident and had spent time together on prior occasions. Client and the female friend drove around a bit on the night of the alleged incident, consumed some alcohol, stopped at a friend’s house, and then had sexual intercourse in the client’s vehicle. The female then went to the police three months later and alleged that she was too intoxicated to have intercourse and blacked out during portions of the sexual encounter. The client maintained his innocence and consistently explained that they did not have that much to drink and that the female was alert and a knowing participant during the sexual encounter.

THE DEFENSE: The Washington County Attorney’s Office filed a single count of 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct against the client. This specific charge accused the client of having intercourse with someone who he should have known was incapable of consent due to intoxication. Client maintained his innocence from the beginning, insisting all sexual activity that occurred was consensual. Criminal defense attorney John Arechigo pursued an aggressive defense. A thorough review of all investigative materials, including all witness statements, recorded interviews, and independent investigation revealed that the complainant’s story simply wasn’t credible. In addition, attorney John Arechigo retained an expert toxicologist who concluded that the complainant’s BAC on the night in question was likely pretty low. The toxicologist produced an opinion that the complainant’s description of the amount of alcohol consumed would not have rendered her unconscious. The prosecuting attorney agreed that the female’s allegations were no longer credible enough to support taking the case to trial.

THE RESULT: The state dismissed the case ten days before trial was set to begin. The client’s entire record related to this incident will soon be expunged.

Punishments for Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

The penalty for criminal sexual conduct in the third degree in Minnesota includes up to 15 years in prison and/or fines up to $30,000. Registration as a sexual offender is also required.

Remedies for Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

When charged with criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, your criminal defense attorney may raise several possible defenses. A successful defense may reduce the penalty or, in some cases, help achieve a not-guilty verdict.

Mistake of age is a defense only when the complainant is at least 13 years of age but less than 16. In this situation, the burden is placed on the actor to prove that they reasonably believed that the victim was at least 16 years old. Outside of this, mistaken age is not typically used as a defense. 

Consent may be raised as a defense in some instances. Under Minnesota law, there are various limitations on the use of consent. Even if the complainant can prove consent, it may be limited in:

  • Cases where the victim is below the age of consent;
  • Encounters where the offender holds a position of authority over the victim;
  • Situations where there is a significant relationship between the offender and victim, including parents, step-parents, guardians, or any relation by blood; or
  • Situations where special trust exists, like patient-therapist relationships.

Your criminal defense attorney can assess your particular situation and help you decide what defense to raise.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree is a serious offense. A trustworthy and reliable attorney is an invaluable ally in this fight.

Our team at Arechigo & Stokka has gained extensive criminal defense skills through decades of experience and hundreds of cases. We believe in working together with our clients to secure the best possible outcome in every case. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation, and let us help you.

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.

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