Sexual harassment and violence against women

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault in Minnesota?

In most cases, criminal sexual assault has no statute of limitations in Minnesota. That has not always been the case, however. A new criminal sexual conduct law removed the statute of limitations for first-degree to fourth-degree criminal sexual assaults on September 15, 2021. The new law applies to criminal sexual assaults happening on or after that date.

Sexual harassment and violence against women

Sexual assault incidents before that date will still carry the 9-year filing deadline. If the police have DNA evidence, however, a filing deadline won’t exist. If you have committed sexual assault or someone is threatening to report you for the same, you might ask, “what is the statute of limitations on sexual assault in Minnesota?”

New Law Removes Statute of Limitations on Most Sexual Assault Charges in Minnesota

The new Minnesota criminal sexual conduct law removed the statute of limitations on September 15, 2021. From this date, moving forward, there is no time limit for commencing most criminal sexual assault proceedings against you regardless of when you allegedly committed the offense.

It’s important to note that this new law applies to sexual assault incidents occurring on or after September 15, 2021. It applies to first-degree to fourth-degree criminal sexual assaults. The 9-year statute of limitations still applies to charges of fifth-degree criminal sexual assault.

The new law carries serious consequences for your life and future for those charged with and convicted of sex crimes. You may face charges and jail time, no matter the amount of time between the alleged commission of the offense and the trial.

A criminal defense attorney can evaluate your situation and explain the options available to you. The defense attorney can also advise you on how to conduct yourself when facing sexual allegations, such as campus sexual assaults.

Degrees of Criminal Sexual Assault in Minnesota

Minnesota law terms sexual assault as criminal sexual conduct. It ranks it into five levels or degrees depending on the crime type, crime severity, available evidence, and prior convictions.

First-Degree Sexual Assault

First-degree sexual assault applies when there’s an allegation that an adult defendant sexually penetrates another adult complainant in the following circumstances:

  • The defendant subjected the complainant to a significant fear of bodily injury or forced the complainant into submission with a dangerous weapon.
  • The defendant injured the complainant, or the complainant was physically helpless or mentally impaired.
  • The defendant penetrated the complainant with the assistance of an accomplice, using force or a dangerous weapon.

A first-degree sexual assault conviction can also arise if the defendant sexually penetrates a complainant who’s under 18 years old or engages in sexual contact with a complainant under 14 years old. 

Other circumstances falling under first-degree sexual conduct include where:

  • The complainant is under 14 years, and the defendant is at least 36 months older.
  • The complainant is at least 14 years but under 16 years, and the defendant is more than 3 years older or in a position of authority.
  • The complainant is under 16 years, and a significant relationship exists. In this case, the defendant can be a relative or any adult residing in the same house as the complainant. If the defendant is an adult, he or she might be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

You could face 30 years or more of jail time and up to $40,000 in fines if you are convicted of a first-degree sexual assault. A sex offender registration is also mandatory. This registration will significantly impact your ability to rent a house, secure a job, and qualify for student loans.

Second-Degree Sexual Assault

Second-degree sexual assault includes all criminal activities outlined under first-degree sexual assault. The only major difference is that no sexual penetration happened. A second-degree sexual assault requires “sexual contact.” Sexual contact includes deliberately touching the victim’s intimate parts. It also includes using coercion to touch the victim’s intimate parts or touching a person’s intimate parts on clothes.

A second-degree sexual assault conviction may carry 25 years or more in prison and up to $35,000 in fines. More severe penalties could apply if your case has multiple aggravating factors.

Third-Degree Sexual Assault

Like first-degree sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault charges allege “sexual penetration.” It also requires one or more aggravating circumstances, including:

  • The complainant is below 14 years, and the defendant is less than three years older.
  • The complainant has reached 14 years but is under 16 years. The defendant is at least two years older.
  • The defendant used force or coercion to penetrate the complainant.
  • The defendant penetrated the complainant despite knowing or having a reason to know that the complainant was mentally or physically incapacitated.
  • The complainant is at least 16, but still below 18 years. The defendant is at least two years older and in an authority position over the complainant.

This felony offense could result in a 15-year or more prison sentence and a fine of up to $30,000, or both. A different punishment applies if the complainant was between 14 and 15 years of age, while the defendant was two to three years older. In this case, the punishment maybe five years in prison or more, and up to $30,000 in fines, or both. 

Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault

All instances listed under third-degree sexual assault apply to the fourth-degree sexual assault. The exception is that no sexual penetration is required. Only “sexual contact” is needed. This felony offense may carry a 10-year jail time and a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

Fifth-Degree Sexual Assault

This level of criminal sexual assault can happen when the offender engages the victim in non-consensual sexual contact. It can also occur when the offender intentionally masturbates or exposes intimate parts while a child below 16 years is watching.

Minnesota considers a fifth-degree sexual assault conviction a gross misdemeanor. A fifth-degree sexual assault conviction might result in one-year imprisonment or more, up to $3,000 in fines, or both. A 5th-degree sexual assault could be charged as a felony if you have a prior conviction. In this case, the punishment may be seven-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $14,000, or both.

Impact of False Sexual Assault Allegations

Legitimate sexual assault allegations must be taken seriously. The same consideration should apply to false sexual assault allegations. When someone falsely accuses you of sexual assault, you could face lifelong and dire consequences, including imprisonment, hefty fines, loss of employment, and loss of your reputation. A perfect example is when foggy memories lead to sexual assault charges.

Get a criminal defense attorney on board as soon as the authorities inform you that someone is accusing you of sexual assault. The attorney will examine the details of the sexual assault allegations against you to determine their strengths and weaknesses. The attorney will then identify the best steps to take against the allegations. The options may include negotiating a favorable plea deal for you or aggressively defending you at trial.

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

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.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.