Bipartisan, bicameral legislators and advocates call for strengthened sexual assault laws

Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate urged swift adoption of legislation to comprehensively update Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct code to address contradictions, loopholes, and other shortcomings which create barriers for survivors to receive justice. The push follows a recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that when prosecuting a sexual assault case, “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol.

“Minnesotans are rightfully demanding action, as a result of the decision, to ensure those who experience the unthinkable trauma of a sexual assault while voluntarily intoxicated have a pathway to receive justice,” said Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview), the bill’s chief author in the House. “While the recent Supreme Court decision highlighted the voluntary intoxication loophole, there are other problems with our current laws that don’t adequately protect victims of sexual assault, particularly children and those subject to sexual extortion. I’m grateful for the bipartisan support for the solutions before us to ensure accountability for those responsible for these reprehensible actions.”

Last year, a legislatively created working group thoroughly examined the current criminal sexual conduct law and offered a comprehensive series of recommendations which are included in Rep. Moller and Sen. Senjem’s legislation. The bill makes a variety of changes to the state’s sexual assault laws including:

  • Modifying the definition of “mentally incapacitated” to remove a roadblock to prosecuting cases where the victim was intoxicated. In the recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the State v. Khalil case, the court noted the state’s “unique institutional capacity” to address the issue, specifically citing the working group’s recommendations and resulting legislation.
  • Age-related changes and measures to protect children.
  • Creation of a new crime of sexual extortion. This addresses instances when someone threatens harm—other than physical harm—to extort unwanted sexual contact with a victim using extortion or blackmail to compel a victim into unwanted sexual contact.

“The journey to get us to the language in HF707 has been a long one, like many difficult and important changes in law. I personally started working on some of the aspects of this bill in 2019 after a high school classmate reached out to get help and justice for his teenage daughter who had been raped at age 13 by two men in their 20s,” said Rep. Marion O’Neill (R – Maple Lake), a co-author of the legislation. “That 2019 bill, ‘Hannah’s Law,’ named after her, was the inspiration for the 2019 legislation which formed the Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform Working Group. For victim survivors, like Hannah, this change cannot happen soon enough, but I also know that we also must get the language right as was highlighted by the recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision. I eagerly look forward to additional work on the bill in the Senate this session. I fully expect a robust debate, amendments and changes to the bill as is customary through the legislative process. I want to thank Chair Limmer for the hour long conversation last night and his commitment to vetting its language in the Senate in the days and weeks ahead.”

“I was pleased to play a role in facilitating stakeholder agreement on a final package that represents years of thoughtful and painstaking work,” said Senator Ron Latz, DFL Lead on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I am hopeful we can cross the finish line this year.” 

Lawmakers were joined by survivors, advocates, prosecutors, and members of law enforcement in support of the bill. The House Public Safety and Judiciary committees have both approved the legislation. The Senate Judiciary & Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider language exclusively addressing the “mental incapacitation” provision tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Senator Ron Latz
Ron Latz represents District 46, which includes portions of Hennepin County in the western Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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