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What Is a Sex Crime?

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Firm News, Sex Crimes

In Minnesota, the legal term for sex crimes is “criminal sexual conduct.” Rape and sexual assault are included in this.

Ask any Minnesota sex crime defense attorney, and they will tell you that the state classifies criminal sexual misconduct into five categories or degrees, based on the illegal sexual activity and the age of the victim.

Each degree of criminal conduct also encompasses various behaviors, with the first-degree being the most serious and hence, carrying the most severe penalties. The fifth degree is the least severe, but comes with serious consequences nonetheless.

Categories of Criminal Sexual Misconduct in Minnesota

Broadly speaking, first degree and third degree criminal sexual misconduct involves sexual penetration of the victim. Second, fourth, and fifth-degree crimes are those that involve sexual contact with the victim, but without penetration.

As skilled sex crimes attorneys, we know that criminal sexual conduct offenses have other considerations as well. First and second degree crimes, for instance, usually include elements such as personal injury caused to the victim, the use of force, violence, dangerous weapons, or very young victims.

In third, fourth, and fifth degrees, the crime involves less aggravated conduct. Other factors at play here include the lack of consent on the victim’s part, the victim’s relatively young age, and the victim consenting to the sexual conduct due to a vulnerability or a special relationship with the offender.

Let’s take a closer look at these categories/degrees to understand them better.

  • First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This is considered the most severe charge of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota. It involves sexual penetration of the victim, or sexual contact with a victim below 13 years of age.

These charges also cover victims who were placed in reasonable fear of physical harm to them. If the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon or threatened the victim with the weapon, or injured the victim, they can be charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct.

Further, if the defendant used force or coercion for sexual penetration or did so while knowing that the victim is physically/mentally impaired, they can be held liable for a crime under this category.

Other factors considered by the law are the defendant being aided by an accomplice to make the victim yield to, or if the accomplice was carrying a weapon, or if the defendant had a close relationship with the victim, and the victim was below the age of 16 at the time of sexual penetration.

Penalties: If convicted, the criminal is sentenced to 30 years in prison and has to pay a fine of up to $40,000. The mandatory minimum sentence for these charges is at least 12 years.

  • Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This degree of criminal sexual conduct involves engaging in sexual contact without penetration. This is also considered a serious offense because of the high potential for using violence, threat of violence, force, coercion, or a dangerous weapon at the time of committing the act. These charges are also applicable if the victim was very young, and did not or was unable to consent to the act.

Penalties: The minimum sentence in such cases is 7.5 years, while the maximum is 25 years. A fine of up to $35,000 may also have to be paid.

  • Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This charge entails engaging in sexual penetration of the victim and a few other circumstances similar to those in first degree criminal sexual conduct, such as the offender knowing that the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated.

It also applies if the defendant had a close relationship with the victim, who was at least 16 years of age but below the age of 18 years at the time of the sexual penetration.  Other factors that play a role include nonconsensual sex taking place if the defendant and victim have a psychotherapist-patient relationship, or the offender was a masseuse or a clergy to the victim.

The charges are also applicable if the defendant used deception or false representation (suggesting a medical purpose) to accomplish sex, or if the defendant was professionally associated with a correction or juvenile facility where the victim was registered.

Penalties: The maximum penalty awarded for these crimes is 15 years in prison and a fine of $30,000.

  • Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This charge applies if the defendant engaged in sexual contact without penetration in the same situations as mentioned under third degree criminal sexual conduct. It also includes cases where the victim is 13-to-15 years of age and the defendant is four or more years older and in a position of authority. You may also get to hear the term “statutory rape” when this charge is levied.

Penalties: The sentence awarded can include up to 10 years in prison or up to $20,000 in fines or both.

  • Fifth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This is the least severe level of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota. It applies in cases involving nonconsensual sexual contact or touching of the private parts of the victim. It also includes the removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the victim’s intimate body parts, and masturbation or lewd display of the genitals in the presence of someone below the age of 16.

Penalties: These charges are regarded as gross misdemeanors and penalties include up to one year imprisonment in a local county jail and a fine of up to $3,000. If the defendant has had a prior conviction, the crime is regarded as felony. Penalties for a felony include up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $14,000.

Apart from the above, child pornography is considered a serious crime in Minnesota. Charges can range from simple possession of such content to producing or distributing it. These can result in extremely serious consequences.

Most of these offenses can get the defendant on the Minnesota sex offender registry, which can hamper every aspect of their life, both personally and professionally.

Consulting a reliable sex crimes defense attorney can be helpful in clearing your name of such charges. Depending on the facts and details of your case, your lawyer can get the sentence reduced or the charges dismissed, if possible.


Criminal sexual conduct charges are a serious matter and attract harsh punishments in Minnesota. A conviction for rape or sexual assault will certainly bring you a lengthy prison term. It will also get your name featured on the sex offender registry for life.

If you’re been accused, you need to remember that you deserve a fair trial. Work with our experienced Minnesota sex crimes attorney, who can help you defend your case in the most effective way possible.

Connect with Our Experienced Sex Crime Defense Attorney for Legal Advice

Contact us at the earliest with us at 855-762-6548 or contact us online to improve your chances of getting a positive outcome for your case.