The question “how much will sex crime defense cost in Minnesota?” has no definite answer. Each sex crime has its unique facts and circumstances. So, the defense strategy employed varies by case. The attorney’s fees and other case expenses vary significantly. Also, each sex crime lawyer has his or her rates and payment plans. Some lawyers charge an hourly rate, while others handle cases on a flat fee or classify the case into different phases and charge a flat fee for each phase. All these factors impact the cost of sex crime defense.
What Is Considered a Sex Crime in Minnesota?
There are no specific criminal statutes for specific sex offenses in Minnesota. Instead, state law recognizes various sex offenses as criminal sexual conduct. It also classifies these offenses into five different degrees.
The classification depends on the severity of the crime and the nature of the evidence available. Previous convictions also impact the classification of the offense. The five different degrees of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota are as follows:
- First Degree: This offense level applies if an adult complainant accuses an alleged offender of sexual penetration by force, coercion, use of weapons, or other violent acts. It also applies when the alleged offender engages in sexual acts (penetration or contact) with an underage complainant.
- Second Degree: This ranking applies to sexual contact with an adult or minor complainant under certain aggravating circumstances. Use of force, coercion, dangerous weapons, and subjecting the complainant to fear of serious bodily injury are some examples of aggravating circumstances.
- Third Degree: This classification covers sexual penetration by coercion or force or when the complainant is under 14 years or incapacitated.
- Fourth Degree: This ranking applies to sexual contact by force, coercion, or when the complainant is below 14 years or incapacitated.
- Fifth Degree: This degree of criminal sexual conduct covers non-consensual sexual penetration and contact. It also covers masturbation and other lewd behaviors in front of a child under 16 years.
How Sex Crime Convictions Work
Criminal sexual conduct charges for the first to the fourth degree are felonies and require felony defense in Minnesota. Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct is usually a gross misdemeanor. A conviction of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree carries up to 30 years in prison or up to a $40,000 fine, or both.
A second-degree conviction carries a prison time of up to 25 years or a fine of up to $35,000 or both. A third-degree conviction may result in incarceration for up to 15 years or up to a $30,000 fine, or both. A conviction of fourth-degree sexual conduct crime attracts a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a $20,000 fine, or both.
The fifth degree is the least serious offense. A conviction may result in up to a year of incarceration or up to a $3,000 fine, or both. An enhanced penalty may apply if the defendant has a prior conviction for the same offense within the last ten years. Also, a previous conviction for other sexual conduct offenses may result in elevated penalties.
What to Do If You’ve Been Accused of a Sex Crime
Talk to a sex crime lawyer shortly after discovering that someone is accusing you of a sex crime, or you are under investigation for the same. A lawyer who has successfully handled cases like yours can offer you actionable legal advice. He or she can, for instance, advise you on what to do (and what not to do) at different stages of the criminal justice process to safeguard your rights and interests.
Preserve any evidence that can help your case. This preservation might involve recording all crucial details about the alleged incident. It might also include safely keeping text messages, emails, or written notes received from the accuser.
Take clear and detailed pictures of any injuries you might have sustained in a confrontation with the accuser. Be sure to see a doctor to get your injuries documented. Share any evidence compiled with your lawyer only.
The lawyer can review the evidence and conduct investigations to gather additional evidence. The lawyer can then determine the best sex crime defense to assert. Actual innocence, for instance, is the most frequently asserted defense to a charge of forcible rape in Minnesota.
Understand the type of allegations you are facing. A police report can provide information regarding the allegations you are facing. So, ensure you get a copy if police officers have filed a report. Your lawyer can explain the accusation you are facing. The lawyer can also help you understand the statute of limitations on rape charges and other criminal sexual conduct charges.
How Much Will Sex Crime Defense Cost?
The cost for a sex crime lawyer varies greatly. Different lawyers have different rates and ways of billing their clients. Scheduling a free initial consultation is one of the most reliable ways to assess rates and billing options used by your prospective criminal defense attorney.
Hourly rates are more common in civil cases than in criminal cases. The reason is that criminal defense attorneys cannot abandon a case after accepting it without the judge’s authorization. Attorneys who charge hourly rates for criminal cases are likely to continue providing legal services even when clients delay or fail to meet the payment requirements. Hourly rates are ideal for long and tough criminal cases.
Many defense attorneys use a flat fee structure. This fee structure involves an attorney charging a flat rate to work on a specific type of case. Attorneys who use this fee structure have different flat rates for different offenses. The flat fee for handling first-degree criminal sexual conduct, for instance, might be higher than for a fifth-degree one.
Payment by Phase
Some attorneys divide criminal cases into two or more phases. They then charge different flat rates for each phase. The outcome is a fee structure where flat fees depend on the stage at which the case resolves. The sooner the case resolves, the lower the flat fees, and vice versa.
Clients also incur other costs necessary to obtain a favorable result. These costs are separate from the attorney’s fees. You might, for instance, need to depose witnesses before trial. You might also need a private investigator to help with the investigation and evidence collection. Your case might require an expert witness to testify in your favor. All these expenses may impact the answer to the question, “How much will sex crime defense cost?”