Being arrested for a sex crime is embarrassing enough. If your name is put in the papers or neighbors see you in handcuffs outside of your house, you may feel that the penalties are harsh enough already.
However, you need to remember that sex crime charges are not convictions. If a jury finds you guilty, you can suffer extremely severe criminal penalties. Before you head to court or start building your defense strategy, you need to understand the penalties that you could face.
Below, we’re going to detail those penalties and why your best chance at returning to a normal life is to fight back with a criminal defense lawyer.
Mandatory Prison Sentences
Minnesota sets serious minimum jail sentences for two of its most serious sex crimes. Offenders convicted of sexual conduct in the second degree face a minimum of 7 ½ years behind bars. Offenders convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree face a minimum of 12 years behind bars.
These charges are saved for offenders who have committed sexual assault with specific aggravating factors. The age of the victim, bodily harm present during the act, or an offender’s previous criminal record may all be considered “aggravating factors” that can increase penalties.
However, even base-level sexual conduct crimes (including those that do not involve sexual penetration) can result in jail time. Fifth degree sexual conduct offenses, for example, can result in up to a year in prison. This sentence can be elevated to seven years if the defendant had previous sex crimes on their record.
“Alternatives” to Prison Sentences
Judges may not give out long jail stints to first or low-level offenders, but this does not excuse them from other penalties. Many offenders are put on probation, which requires them to consistently check in with a probation officer, pay fines or restitution, and follow other guidelines. Additional restrictions may apply to offenders on probation, including restrictions of the offender’s residency and whether or not they can have contact with minors.
Restraining orders may also be put in place against the victim or their family members. Additional penalties may apply if an offender violates the term of their restraining order (or their probation, for that matter).
Fines for sexual conduct charges could reach tens of thousands of dollars. You may also have to pay additional fines if you are brought to civil court on a personal injury lawsuit.
Minnesota’s Sex Offender Program
There are many different types of sex crimes in Minnesota, but all of them have one thing in common: after a conviction, offenders face having to register with the state sex offender registry. Even offenders convicted of “less serious” sex crimes like indecent exposure will have to be on the registry. This could be a lifelong penalty, and it is one that can have a big effect on where you live and how you conduct your life.
Like probation, the sex offender registration requires offenders to regularly “check in” and re-register. The registry itself provides citizens a list of sex offenders and their personal information. Offenders have to register for a minimum of 10 years, but more serious offenses could result in required registration for life.
If an offender violates the terms of their registration requirements, they may face additional years on the registry. Having your name on the registry could potentially impact your ability to get a job or an apartment.
Remember, a charge is not a conviction. You may not have to suffer any of these penalties if you are able to put together the right defense strategy. The cost of not doing so could be something you end up paying for the rest of your life.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.