What You Need to Know About the Age of Consent in Minnesota
Many people may not know that the age at which an individual can consent to sexual activity varies between states. Here is what you need to know about the age of consent in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, the legal age of consent is 16 years old. This means that any individual who is under the age of 16 years old is not allowed to engage in sexual activity, and any individual who attempts to engage in sexual activity with an individual under the age of 16 years old may be charged with statutory rape.
What Is Consent?
Consent is a critical aspect of sexual intercourse, and any sexual contact without consent is considered to be a sex crime in the United States. An individual may not give consent either willingly or by default, and lack of consent may result from:
- Forcible compulsion,
- Incapacity to consent, and/or
- Any circumstances of sexual abuse or forcible touching.
- In the context of sexual activity, consent refers to express affirmation with regards to the specific sexual activity in question. Many individuals understand consent as a conditional affirmation under four paradigms. According to them, consent must be:
All consent must be clear, not just implied. Consent requires verbal and affirmative confirmation, and ambiguous body language or silence can never constitute consent.
Any individual engaging in sexual activities must be alert and sober in order to provide consent. If an individual is intoxicated or unconscious, they are incapable of giving consent. Thus, sexual advances may constitute sexual assault. Do not engage in sexual activity with someone who cannot coherently provide consent.
Consent must always be voluntary, which means to say that the individual is not being pressured into sexual activity. Forcing an individual into consent by using fear, guilt, and coercion force is not okay, and using any of these tactics to engage in sexual activity may constitute sexual assault.
Consent must be continuous throughout the sexual interaction and may be revoked at any time. In addition, just because an individual consented previously to an act or consented to another sexual act does not constitute consent to all sexual acts. The other person may withdraw their consent at any time during the sexual encounter. If your partner seems uncomfortable during the interaction or expresses that they do not want to continue, they no longer consent to the sexual activity.
Minnesota does not consider an individual capable of consent if they are:
- Under 16 years old,
- Mentally disabled,
- Mentally incapacitated,
- Physically helpless, and/or
- Under state custody or care
Violations of the Age of Consent
Depending on the nature of the crime, statutory rape charges can come with civil penalties.
Any individual more than two years older than a minor under the age of 16 who solicits sexual pictures or acts may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine
An individual is guilty of sexual assault in the first degree if they coerce their target into sexual acts and physically harm the target with a weapon. Alternatively, an individual is guilty of sexual assault in the first degree if they coerce a minor into sexual activities with the threat of a weapon. Individuals charged with sexual assault in the first degree face up to 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
An individual is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree if the individual coerces another individual with a weapon into sexual activity. Alternatively, an individual is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree if the victim is under 18 years old, and the assailant is an authority figure to the victim. Individuals guilty of sexual assault in the second degree will face up to 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.
An individual is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree if they engage in sexual relations with a minor who is above 16 years old but below 18 years old, and the older party is an authority figure to the younger party who is two or more years older than the younger party. Alternatively, an individual is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree if they engage in sexual relations by coercion or with an individual who is mentally incapacitated or unable to provide consent. Criminals charged with sexual assault in the third degree face up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.
An individual is guilty of sexual assault in the fourth degree if they engage in sexual activity with an individual using coersion without a weapon and/or the victim is unable to give consent. Alternatively, an individual is guilty of sexual assault in the fourth degree if the victim is under 14 years of age and the actor is no more than 36 months older than the complainant, or the victim is at least 14 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant or in a current or recent position of authority over the complainant. It is important to note that consent by the victim to the act is not a defense.
What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?
Minnesota has an age of consent of 16 years of age. This means that any individual under 16 years of age cannot engage in sexual activity. However, there are exceptions to this rule in cases where the two individuals are very close in age. In other states, Romeo and Juliet laws would apply to a couple in which one individual is over the age of consent and the other individual is under the age of consent. In Minnesota, if an individual is within two years of age of the other individual and both parties are between 13 and 16 years old, neither party would be considered in violation of the law. However, Minnesota does not have Romeo and Juliet laws, which means that any adult, regardless of the age gap, would be considered guilty of statutory rape for having sexual relations with a minor. This includes, for example, if one partner just turned 16 and the other partner will turn 16 in a week. At that point in time, if the couple were to engage in sexual relations, since one partner would still be 15 and the other one 16, the older party would be guilty of statutory rape.