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Is sexual assault a felony

Felony and Misdemeanor DC Sex Crimes

What makes a sex offense a felony versus a misdemeanor?

First degree sexual abuse is the highest level of felony sexual abuse. That is when someone is accused of engaging in or causing another person to engage in or to submit to a sexual act by using force; threatening or placing the other person in reasonable fear that they or someone else will be subjected to death, injury, or kidnapping; or rendering the person unconscious, meaning knocking them out or giving them a drug, intoxicant, or other substance that will substantially impair their ability to consent. That means engaging in a sexual act using force, threatening to use force, or making someone unconscious, whether it be through drugs, alcohol, or otherwise. That is first degree sexual abuse. A very important factor in this offense is defining what a sexual act is exactly. A sexual act is defined as any penetration of the private parts, which would include the anus or the vagina, by a penis; contact between a person’s mouth and penis, mouth and vulva, or mouth and anus; or any penetration using a hand, finger, or any other object. If the allegations involve any of those types of conduct, it is defined as a sexual act. That is how they determine that it is a first degree sexual abuse charge.

A second degree sexual abuse charge, which is one level down, is when a person engages in a sexual act by threatening another person or putting them in reasonable fear, or when the person knows or has reason to know that the alleged victim is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct, is unable to decline participation in the sexual act, or is unable to communicate the unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. This situation would not have involved force, but rather the accused making a threat, putting the person in reasonable fear, or knowing that the person cannot consent. A common example of someone being unable to consent would be if they are inebriated or unconscious and the accused performs a sexual act upon them. Then the accused could be found guilty of second degree sexual abuse.

Third degree sexual abuse involves sexual contact as opposed to a sexual act. Sexual contact differs from a sexual act in that sexual contact involves touching either with your own body part or with an object, with or without clothing, of the genitalia, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with a sexual, humiliating, harassing, or degrading intent. The difference between first degree and third degree is that third degree still involves using force or threats or rendering the person unconscious, but not performing any kind of sexual act. Third degree sexual abuse involves contact, whether it be over or under the clothing, and the intent is either sexual or is to degrade or humiliate the other person. That contact involves the genitalia, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of the alleged victim.

Fourth degree sexual abuse is when a person engages in sexual contact with the alleged victim and the alleged victim is unable to appraise the nature of the conduct or incapable of declining participation. This is similar to second degree sexual abuse in which the victim is unconscious, in a position where they cannot consent, or cannot vocalize their lack of consent and sexual contact is made as opposed to sexual act.

Below those felony sexual abuse charges, there is misdemeanor sexual abuse. To some degree, it is a catchall charge. Misdemeanor sexual abuse is when someone engages in either a sexual act or sexual contact with another person while knowing that it was committed without the other person’s permission. It is a catchall because there are many situations in which the person could arguably be charged with a felony sexual abuse charge but the level of proof is not there or the conduct itself may not be as clear, so they charge the lower level misdemeanor sexual abuse. Most commonly, that occurs if someone is intoxicated and grabs the buttocks of another person at a bar, for example. Clearly, their conduct is inappropriate, but it may not rise to the level of a felony.

[Back to Sex Crimes Page]

The Appalachian State University’s Sexual Assault Prevention Center classifies sexual assault as, “the sexual exploitation, forcible penetration, or an act of sexual contact on the body of another person, male or female, without his or her consent,” including rape, molestation, masturbation and coercions. However, sexual assaults have several levels—called “degrees”—of severity that affect conviction and punishment.

Degrees and Punishments of Sexual Assault

These degrees, much like degrees of murder, vary depending on violence, intent, and outcomes, and can be either classified within a felony class or as a misdemeanor.

1st Degree

These are Class B felonies. Conviction means a sentences not to exceed 60 years in prison:

  • Sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person that has been committed without consent, or has been forced on another person by use of a dangerous weapon or threat of harm.
  • Assault is aided or abetted by one or more other persons by use of force, threats, or violence, without consent
  • Sexual contact or sexual intercourse with or without consent with a person under the age of 13.

2nd Degree

Each of these is a Class C felony. The punishment is a fine not to exceed $100,000, and imprisonment that may not exceed 40 years:

  • Sexual contact without consent, by use of threats, force or violence, which causes injury, including illness, disease or impairment of a sexual or reproductive organ, or mental anguish requiring psychiatric care for the victim.
  • Sexual contact with a person who cannot legally give consent at the time of the incident, such as someone who suffers from a mental illness, was intoxicated, or was unconscious during the incident
  • Sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who is a patient, employee, subordinate or resident of the facility or program in which the defendant works.

3rd Degree

This is a Class G felony, punishable by a fine not to exceed $25,000 and by imprisonment for a period that may not exceed 10 years (the maximum term of confinement may not exceed five years and extended supervision may not exceed five years):

  • Sexual contact (not intercourse) involving ejaculation without the consent of that person

4th Degree

These are Class A misdemeanors, punished with a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed nine months in the county jail, or both:

  • Sexual harassment, stalking, or lewd behavior toward another person without the consent of that person
  • Sexual intercourse with a person 16 or 17 years old

No matter the degree of accusation, a sexual assault conviction can have dire consequences on your future. Do not allow a false accusation to ruin the rest of your life. Contact us today to discuss your case and allow us to convince you how our experience, diligence, and dedication can help you get the justice you need to prevent a life altering conviction. Although the circumstance may seem bleak, the next step is clear: call now for the help you need and the support you deserve.



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Sexual assault, also called criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota, refers to alleged sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim.

Allegations can include:

  • Unwanted sexual touching;
  • Forcing the victim to perform unwanted sexual acts; and 
  • Penetration of the victim’s body.

Minnesota law splits sexual assault into five degrees depending on the circumstances of the alleged act.

First-degree through fourth-degree sexual assault are felonies, while fifth-degree sexual assault is a gross misdemeanor or felony depending on the situation.

If you face sexual assault charges in Minnesota, you should contact or call our sexual assault defense lawyer at (651) 222-6603 as soon as possible.

First-Degree Sexual Assault

First-degree sexual assault is the most serious form of sexual assault in Minnesota.

It involves an allegation of sexual penetration of any person or an allegation of sexual contact with a minor under 13 years old.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a first-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16, the accused was in a position of authority over the victim, and the accused was more than four years older than the victim; or
  • The accused had a dangerous weapon and used or threatened to use the weapon to force the victim to submit to the act.

First-degree sexual assault carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

Second-Degree Sexual Assault

Second-degree sexual assault in Minnesota covers alleged sexual contact under at least one of the circumstances also applicable to first-degree sexual assault.

It carries a maximum punishment of up to 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.

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Third-Degree Sexual Assault

Third-degree sexual assault involves sexual penetration of any person.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a third-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was no more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16 and the accused was more than two years older than the victim; or
  • The accused knew or had reason to know that the victim was mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

Third-degree sexual assault carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Sexual Assault Charges Dismissed

THE CASE: State Dismisses Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Prior of Trial

THE FACTS: Client was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct stemming from an incident with a female in Ramsey county. The client always maintained that the sexual encounter was 100% consensual. The female involved reached out to the client on SnapChat and asked the client if he wanted to hang out. She gave the client her address. The client picked her and her girlfriend up and went over to a friend’s house to hang out. The client and the female eventually engaged in sexual activity in a bedroom of the residence. The client dropped the female and her friend off at the end of the night. St. Paul Police were eventually contacted and the female reported that the client had forced her to engage in sexual activity.

THE DEFENSE: Our investigation revealed that the female had asked our client for money during the drive home at the end of that night. Our client refused to give her any money, insisting that they had never discussed the payment of money for her company. The client insisted that the female was upset that he did not give her any money. After our thorough review of the client’s case materials, the female’s story did not hold up. It became apparent that her version of the alleged incident lacked credibility. The prosecutor ultimately agreed with our position and recognized that the female complainant would not be a credible witness at trial.

CASE RESULT: The prosecutor recognized the unlikelihood of a conviction at trial and dismissed the sexual assault charges prior to trial. The client had a lot at stake. This type of charge carries a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. A sexual assault conviction carries significant consequences, including going to prison, a public background with a stigma of sexual assault, having to register as a sex offender, and a loss of an ability to lawfully possess a firearm. The dismissal was vital to the client’s future.

Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault

Fourth-degree sexual assault involves sexual contact with another person.

Some, but not all, of the alleged circumstances that could give rise to a fourth-degree sexual assault charge include:

  • The victim was under 13 and the accused was no more than three years older than the victim;
  • The victim was between 13 and 16 and the accused was more than four years older than the victim; or
  • The accused used force or coercion to accomplish the sexual contact.

It carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Fifth-Degree Sexual Assault

Acts that constitute an allegation of Minnesota fifth-degree sexual assault include:

  • Nonconsensual sexual contact; or
  • Knowingly masturbating or exposing one’s genitals in the presence of a minor under 16 years old.

When charged as a gross misdemeanor, it carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. When charged as a felony, it carries a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.

Can I Get Sexual Assault Charges Dropped or Reduced?

Depending on the facts of your case, a sexual assault defense attorney might get your sexual assault charges dropped or reduced.

However, getting your charges dropped or reduced can be difficult because key defenses do not apply in sexual assault cases.

For example, consent is not an available defense to allegations involving minors and some cases involving alleged intoxication.

The defense known as “mistake of age” is also generally unavailable in sexual assault charges involving minors.

You should speak with a sexual assault lawyer today to get a betters sense of what defenses are available in your individual case.

How the Sexual Assault Defense Lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., Can Help You

If you face sexual assault charges in Minnesota, our sexual assault lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., will work to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

We will thoroughly explain your options to you so that you can make informed decisions throughout your case.

We have achieved many positive results for our clients because of our experience in the Minnesota criminal justice system and dedication to our individual clients’ needs.

Contact us online or call (651) 222-6603 today to schedule your free consultation with our criminal defense lawyer.

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