Reaching certain benchmark ages typically comes with more freedom to make your own decisions, as well as more responsibility for yourself as you grow up. Some of those benchmarks are cultural, but others are very real in a legal sense. One of those is the age of consent, which is the age where someone can legally consent to have sex with another person. Some states have a single, hard limit that one either meets or doesn’t. Minnesota law, though, has several shades of gray where the age of both partners are considered.
Consent, Age Gaps, and The Law
According to the Revisor of the Office of Statutes, Minnesota has what are commonly referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws regarding the age of consent. In short, there are allowances made for consenting partners who are very close to one another in age.
For example, someone can consent to sex if they are at least 13 years old, and their partner is no more than 48 months older than they are (roughly the same gap as Romeo and Juliet, hence the name of the laws). Additionally, as with any other state, two persons who are 18 years old or older are completely free and clear, as they’re both past the age groups these allowances are made for (namely younger people who begin dating, and then one of them ages into a category where their relationship becomes problematic).
While the age of consent is the primary thing that one should be worried about in Minnesota, there are other factors that can lead to sexual behaviors becoming criminal. For example, if someone has a position of authority over someone, that alters whether or not they can provide consent. Anyone that’s a parent or guardian of a child, anyone charged with a duty or responsibility for that child’s health, welfare, or supervision falls under this category. Another category is significant relationship, which can include siblings and step-siblings as well as other family relations, as well as anyone who lives in the house with the minor on a regular basis.
All of these conditions can aggravate the situation, and turn what would be otherwise acceptable situations (say a 14-year-old consented to have sex with a 15-year-old) into a criminal situation (the 15-year-old is the complaintant’s step-brother).
In the cases where there is a position of authority or a significant relationship, it remains a crime until all persons are 18 years of age or older. At that point it simply becomes a life decision, rather than a statutory crime.
Much like the age of consent, criminal punishments for illegal sexual conduct have a variety of punishments under Minnesota law. Which category a crime fits will vary based on the ages of the participants, the positions of authority (or lack thereof), and other conditions. However, generally speaking, punishments will adhere to the following:
– First Degree Sexual Conduct: Punishable by a maximum 30-year sentence in prison, and a fine of no more than $40,000.
– Second Degree Sexual Conduct: Punishable by a maximum 25-year sentence in prison, and a fine of no more than $35,000.
– Third Degree Sexual Conduct: Punishable by a maximum 15-year sentence in prison, and a fine of no more than $30,000.
– Fourth Degree Sexual Conduct: Punishable by a maximum 10-year sentence in prison, and a fine of no more than $10,000.
If you or someone you love is caught up a criminal sexual conduct accusations, it’s important to make sure you have legal experts on your side to help you navigate Minnesota’s laws. For more information, or to get help, simply contact us today!
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.