“Minnesota law classifies the crime of criminal sexual conduct into five categories: first- through fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, with first-degree carrying the most severe penalties and fifth-degree the least. Minn. Stat. §§ 609.342 to 609.3451. Generally speaking, the first-degree and third-degree crimes apply to sexual conduct involving sexual penetration of the victim; the second-, fourth-, and fifth-degree crimes apply to sexual conduct involving sexual contact with the victim without sexual penetration.”
What Penalties Apply to Sexual Conduct Crimes?
Each degree of sexual conduct crime in the state is associated with maximum penalties as well as “sentencing guidelines” which lessen those penalties for those with no criminal history. First-degree criminal sexual conduct (which entails sexual penetration and certain other crimes with minors), for example, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $40,000—but sentencing guidelines for those with no criminal history presume an executed sentence of 114 months (i.e., 12 years in prison).
The severity of criminal penalties decreases with each successive degree:
- 2nd degree has a maximum of 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine
- 3rd degree maxes out at 15 years and $30,000
- 4th degree carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine
- 5th degree has a maximum of I year and a $10,000 fine
The Requirement to Register as a Sex Offender
In addition to these criminal penalties, there’s one additional requirement for those convicted of sexual conduct crimes, one which continues long after their prison sentences are completed—they must register as “sex offenders.” They remain on the sex offender registry for a minimum of 10 years, but many convicted sex offenders stay there for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the registry doesn’t distinguish between those convicted of relatively minor crimes and those whose crimes are substantially more heinous.
What Does It Mean to Be a Registered Sex Offender?
The requirement to register as a sex offender carries a significant stigma for those whose names are placed on it. For example, one is labeled a “predatory offender” for the duration of their inclusion on the registry, a fact that significantly compromises personal liberty and privacy. Among the ways registration as a sex offender impacts the lives of those on it are the following 6:
- Limits on where you can live: typically, registered sex offenders are not permitted to live within certain distances of schools or other places where children gather.
- Difficulty renting an apartment: landlords usually run a criminal background check on prospective tenants; they can legally refuse to rent to anyone on the registry.
- Continued registration when you move: moving to a state other than Minnesota does not remove you from the registry—you will be required to register in your new state and to obey that state’s laws regarding sexual offenders.
- Difficulty finding employment: Minnesota law disallows registered sex offenders from holding many jobs, like those in schools, clothing stores with changing rooms, spas, and salons. You could also be barred from holding jobs which place you in a position of power (like a doctor who sees patients).
- Possible loss of child custody: an ex-partner with whom you share children can successfully argue in court that you are a danger to the children, and that can mean losing custody.
- Loss of privacy: the purpose of the registry is to closely monitor the activities of those whose names appear on it—that means the public can have access to your home, your vehicle, and even your job. Beyond this, it’s not unusual for people on the registry to encounter bias and harassment from their neighbors, friends, and family.
You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Given the stringent penalties ranging from prison time and substantial fines to being on the sex offender registry, it’s important if you’ve been accused of criminal sexual conduct to partner with a competent attorney with deep experience handling sex crimes. To get the advice and guidance you need from an attorney who will stand by your side and fight for your rights, contact us today.