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Statutory Rape Laws Explained

The laws regarding statutory rape can be very complicated. Even when the sexual relations were consensual, the consequences for statutory rape can sometimes be just as severe as those for forcible rape. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for statutory rape or another sex crime, it is important that you understand how the court assesses these crimes and determines suitable punishments.

What is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape is the act of sexual relations with a child considered below the age of consent. This means, even if the person was willing, he or she is considered too young by legal standards to consent to sex. In Minnesota, the age of consent is 16 years of age. However, persons up to 18 years of age are prohibited from having sexual relations with a person in a position of authority over them.

Individuals charged with statutory rape may be charged by degrees, depending on the type of sexual activity and the age difference or relationship between the pair. The age of the youngest partner may also play a big factor in the severity of the consequences.

First-Degree Statutory Rape

Minnesota law defines first-degree criminal sexual misconduct as any form of statutory rape where penetration occurs. This can include oral, anal, or vaginal sex, and may include penetration of the victim’s body or the defendant’s. Age also plays a major role in determining the severity of the crime.

The crime may be first-degree statutory rape if:

  • The victim is less than 13 years old and the defendant is more than 3 years older
  • The victim is between 13-16 years old and the defendant is 4 years older and in a position of authority over the victim
  • The victim was in fear of physical harm to himself/herself or feared for another person
  • The defendant carried a dangerous weapon
  • The victim was mentally or physically impaired
  • The defendant used force or coercion
  • The defendant was related to the victim in some significant way (parent, relative, guardian, etc.) and the victim was under the age of 16

Second-Degree Statutory Rape

An act of sexual misconduct is be considered second-degree statutory rape if the defendant intentionally touched the victim’s intimate parts, but no penetration occurs. This can include touching over clothing, or forced touching, or contact due to coercion. All of the same circumstances listed under first-degree statutory rape also apply here.

Third-Degree Statutory Rape

A person will be charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct if he or she engages in sexual penetration with an underage person.

Third-degree statutory rape applies to the following situations:

  • The victim is less than 13 years old and the defendant is not more than 3 years older
  • The victim is between 13-15 years old and the defendant is between 2-10 years older
  • The defendant uses force or coercion
  • The victim was mentally or physically incapacitated
  • The defendant has a significant relationship to the victim (relative, parent, guardian, etc.) and the victim was between 16-18 years old
  • The victim was between the ages of 16-18 years old and the defendant was at least 3 years older and in a position of authority over the child

Fourth-Degree Statutory Rape

If charged with fourth-degree statutory rape, an act of criminal misconduct occurred between the defendant and a minor that involved sexual contact, except penetration. This can include inappropriate touching of the genitals. The same situations and age differences specified under third-degree statutory rape also apply to fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct.

Potential Penalties

The penalties for statutory rape can vary depending on the severity of the crime and the degree to which the defendant is charged. A conviction for fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct can result in up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines, while third-degree is punishable by 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. Second-degree statutory rape can result in up to 25 years in prison and up to $35,000 in fines, while a first-degree conviction may lead to 30 years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines. Additionally, those convicted may be required to sex offender treatment after prison, monitoring, probation, and will likely be added to the sex offender registry.

If you are facing statutory rape charges, act now to defend your rights and your freedom. Contact Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. to discuss your case with our Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys.


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