What Is the Most Common Defense to a Charge of Forcible Rape in Minnesota?

The defense of actual innocence is the most common defense to a charge of forcible rape in Minnesota. A strong, verifiable alibi is necessary for this defense to be effective. Consent may also be a defense to a forcible rape charge. Admitting a sexual activity took place legally may be an effective strategy in some forcible rape allegations. Insanity or mental incapacity defense may also work in certain forcible rape cases in Minnesota. 

If you are facing a forcible rape charge in Minnesota, you will want to know the best defense to a charge of forcible rape. You need to work with a sex crimes attorney to determine the defense option that will work best for your situation. The attorney will review your case and select the best defense strategy to help you avoid the serious and long-lasting repercussions of a forcible rape conviction. 

Types or Degrees of Rape Charges in Minnesota

Minnesota classifies rape crimes as criminal sexual conduct. It often charges rape crimes as one of the four degrees of criminal sexual conduct. The specific degree assigned to the alleged crime depends on the aggravating factors, the severity of the criminal sexual conduct, and previous convictions. 

First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

A rape charge falls into the category of first-degree criminal sexual conduct when an alleged adult offender sexually penetrates another adult under the following conditions: 

  • The offender threatens the alleged victim with significant bodily harm or uses a dangerous weapon to force the victim to submit 
  • The offender caused severe injuries to the alleged victim, or the victim had physical or mental incapacity 
  • Someone else helped or pushed the alleged offender to commit the act using force, coercion, or a dangerous weapon

An alleged offender may face a first-degree sexual conduct charge if the offender engages in sexual penetration with a person under 18 years old or sexual contact with anyone under 14 years old. The following circumstances can also result in a first-degree sexual conduct charge: 

  • The victim is under14-years-old, and the alleged offender is more than three years older
  • The victim is 14-years-old, but under 16-years-old 
  • The victim is under 16-years-old and was significantly related to the offender when the alleged offense happened 

Second-Degree Sexual Conduct 

Rape charges fall under this category when all circumstances spelled out under first-degree sexual conduct exist without sexual penetration. This felony charge involves sexual contact. In this case, sexual contact refers to knowingly touching the intimate parts of the alleged victim. Using threats to touch the victim’s intimate parts directly or on clothes may also amount to sexual contact. 

Third-Degree Sexual Conduct 

A rape charge may be third-degree sexual conduct if sexual penetration occurs under any of the following circumstances:

  • The victim is under 14 years, and the offender is not more than 36 months older
  • The victim is above 14 years but still below 16 years, and the alleged offender is 24 months older 
  • Sexual penetration happens when the victim is subjected to force or coercion 
  • The offender was aware or should have been reasonably aware that the victim had mental or physical incapacity at the time of penetration. 
  • The victim was 16 years but under 18 years, while the offender was at least 24 months older and in a position of power over the victim. 

Fourth-Degree Sexual Conduct 

Fourth-degree rape charges include all criminal activities listed under third-degree sexual conduct without sexual penetration. This type of charge requires sexual contact only. 

The Most Common Defense to a Charge of Forcible Rape

Actual Innocence 

Innocence is the most frequently used defense to a charge of forcible rape in Minnesota. You may claim innocence by arguing you were at a different physical location when the alleged rape happened. You will need a credible alibi for this defense to hold. 

Furthermore, you must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not physically with the complainant at the time of the crime. Credit card statements, plane tickets, and hotel receipts are some forms of evidence you can use to support your alibi. Testimony from several witnesses can also prove helpful.

You may also argue that the complainant misidentified you. You must present convincing evidence to back your claim. DNA evidence can help prove that you were not the offender at the crime scene. 

Don’t face false accusations of rape by yourself. Instead, involve a sexual assault lawyer to increase your chances of avoiding a conviction. The attorney can help you compile and organize strong evidence to fight off false allegations of rape. 


Rape is the use of force or coercion to engage in a sexual act with another person. The sexual act generally happens without consent. Claiming the complainant consented to the sexual act can be a defense to a charge of forcible rape.

You must present sufficient evidence to support your claims for the consent defense to be effective. You might, for instance, use the evidence of previous consensual sexual encounters with the complainant to show that even the sexual act in question was consensual. 

Consent of the complainant does not apply as a defense in some cases. You cannot, for instance, invoke the consensual defense when facing statutory rape charges in Minnesota. A minor cannot give consent to any sexual activity. An extremely intoxicated person is also incapable of consenting to sex. Your attorney may help you understand the impact of alcohol on consent

Date rape drugs can also affect the ability of a person to consent to sex legally. Ketamine and Rohypnol are the most frequently used drugs in date rape incidents. These drugs are usually tasteless and dissolve quickly in drinks. 

Date rape is considered a heinous crime in Minnesota. It carries significant fines and prison sentences. A sex crime lawyer knowledgeable about criminal defense can carefully evaluate the various legal defenses to date rape charges to determine which defense option will work for your case. 

Admitting a Sexual Act Happened Under Legal Circumstances 

Admitting a sexual activity that happened under legal circumstances can be a great defense in certain rape cases. You must present evidence-supported arguments to prove the sexual activity in question occurred under legal circumstances. You might, for instance, prove that you did not use any force, coercion, or violence. Likewise, you can also present evidence of a marital relationship with the alleged victim when the act happened. 

Insanity or Mental Incapacity 

Although rarely used, pleading insanity or mental incapacity can be a viable defense to a charge of forcible rape. Your medical records and doctor’s notes must specify you are mentally ill and that your illness existed even when the crime happened. You might also present evidence that someone else forced you to take drugs or alcohol that made you too intoxicated to comprehend your sexual behavior. 

Penalties for Forcible Rape

A first or third-degree forcible rape conviction can lead to severe consequences for you, your reputation, and your family. A first-degree forcible rape often attracts a prison time of up to 30 years or up to $40,000 in fines or both. 

A second-degree rape conviction usually carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years or a fine payment of up to $35,000, or both. You may also face more stringent penalties if several aggravating circumstances apply in your case. 

A third-degree forcible rape conviction carries an imprisonment of up to 15 years or a fine payment of up to $30,000. Penalties for a fourth-degree rape conviction may include up to a 10-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $20,000, or both. 

A conditional release period is mandatory if you were sentenced to prison following criminal sexual conduct conviction. The duration of the conditional release can range from ten years to a lifetime. The duration generally depends on the nature of your crime and the existence of past convictions. 

Other Consequences of a Rape Conviction in Minnesota 

Sexual Predator Registration 

A first- or third-degree forcible rape conviction will most likely lead to a long prison sentence. On top of imprisonment, a sex offender registration might also be necessary. Registered sex offenders are often subject to harassment and exclusion by society, as the public can access the sex offender registry

Loss of Right to Own a Firearm 

A forcible rape conviction automatically disqualifies you from possessing a firearm. The state may take this action because Minnesota considers first-degree to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct as crimes of violence. 

Loss of Personal Property 

You may lose your personal property to the state immediately after a criminal sexual conduct conviction. The chances of this occurring in your case increase if you used or planned to use your property to commit or aid the commission of the sex crime in question. 

Loss of Right to Be Part of a Jury

You may lose the right to be a jury member following a felony conviction. 

Loss of Right to Vote 

The right to vote is another civic duty you might lose after a conviction of forcible rape. 

Immigration Consequences 

You might get deported if you are an undocumented immigrant or permanent resident convicted of rape in Minnesota. 

Difficulty Securing a Job or Rental House 

Most employers conduct thorough background checks on all job applicants. A rape conviction on your record may significantly lower your chances of securing a job. Similarly, most landlords screen potential tenants before approving their applications. They are highly likely to reject your application if you have a criminal record. 

When to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

You should hire a criminal defense attorney immediately after someone accuses you of forcible rape in Minnesota. The same applies if you have reasonable grounds to believe police officers are, or will be, investigating you for forcible rape. Your defense attorney will advise you on the steps you should take to protect your rights, compile evidence, and work to prevent a potential conviction. 

You might be scared and angry when someone accuses you of a sex offense. You might make mistakes or unknowingly reveal self-incriminating information under these circumstances, especially if you decide to represent yourself. 

The benefit of involving a criminal defense attorney early in the process is that you will have someone competent to represent you. The attorney will cooperate with investigating officers and the court while protecting your best interests at the same time. 

You will have someone with whom you can discuss the details of the case in a confidential setting. Someone who understands the attorney-client relationship. Someone willing to aggressively defend you against any allegations. 

A criminal defense attorney with proven experience in handling forcible rape cases knows how to navigate legal obstacles as they arise. The attorney knows how to compile evidence that can deconstruct the prosecution case. The attorney also understands how to negotiate great plea deals with the prosecution. 

How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Attorney 

Time might not be on your side, and you might want to get legal support immediately after discovering you are facing a forcible rape case. You should, however, note that having the right criminal defense attorney in your corner is a crucial part of emerging victorious in your case. 

You must do some due diligence to choose the right attorney for your case among the numerous options. Look for a criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his or her practice to handling sex crime cases. That attorney will know laws and court decisions applicable to your case. 

Ensure the attorney you hire knows the local courts and how they work. A criminal attorney with positive, professional connections with local courthouses will navigate the criminal justice system smoothly. The attorney will help you prepare for your first court appearance. 

Look for a criminal attorney who is a responsive communicator. You need someone who will update you regularly on any development in your case and how those developments affect your defense to a charge of forcible rape. That person should answer your calls or reply to your emails quickly. You can gauge whether your would-be attorney is a responsive communicator by scheduling an initial consultation.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Confidential informants may provide integral information to help build criminal investigations, but how reliable is that information when they are receiving payment for their services? To protect them, state law requires the identity of informants be kept confidential. For those facing criminal charges, however, this creates challenges in questioning the accuracy and validity of the information given at trial.
Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.