Minnesota criminalizes five degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct (“CSC”). The base conduct prohibited in fifth degree CSC is nonconsensual sexual contact. The four higher degrees of CSC require one or more aggravating elements in addition to a nonconsensual sexual act. The two aggravating elements which distinguish the degrees of CSC in Minnesota are force and personal injury. These aggravators are supposed to separate out the worst offenses and offenders for the harshest punishment. But problematic statutory definitions and judicial interpretations have created overlap in the meaning of force and injury. Because the same conduct satisfies both the force and injury elements, there is no difference between the degrees of CSC—higher and lower degrees of CSC prohibit exactly the same conduct. This means defendants who engage in identical conduct can receive vastly different sentences. As currently written and enforced by the courts, Minnesota’s CSC statutes violate equal protection under the Minnesota Constitution.2 The legislature should act swiftly to remedy this problem.
Yauch-Erickson, Jenna, "Minnesota's Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutes: A Call for Change" (2013). Symposium: 50th Anniversary of the Minnesota Criminal Code-Looking Back and Looking Forward. 1.