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Minnesota Statutory Rape Laws: Ignorance of Age Is Not a Legal Defense

by Apr 18, 2023Criminal Defense Attorney, Dea Cortney, Sex Crimes

Most U.S. states, including Minnesota, have statutory rape laws in place to protect minors from sexual abuse and exploitation. These laws make it illegal for anyone to engage in sexual activity with a minor who is below a certain age, even if the minor consents to the activity. One important aspect of these laws that many people are not aware of is that ignorance of the minor’s age is not a legal defense.

It’s a common misconception that if a sexual partner lies to you about their age you can’t be charged with a crime. Sadly, our criminal defense attorneys in Minnesota have seen many defendants shocked by their charges because they had no idea the individual they were intimate with was underage. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself against a completely unexpected criminal charge.

The Age of Consent

In Minnesota, the age of consent is 16 years old. This means that any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 is considered statutory rape, regardless of whether or not the minor consents to the activity. The law is in place to protect minors from being taken advantage of by adults who may use their age and experience to manipulate and exploit them.

However, some people may mistakenly believe that if they were not aware of the minor’s age, they can use ignorance as a defense in court. This is not the case in Minnesota. According to Minnesota Statutes § 609.344, subdivision 1, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant did not know the age of the minor or believed that the minor was older than they actually were. This means that the burden falls on each of us to verify that any potential sexual partners are above the age of consent. There are very limited exceptions to this rule that we won’t go into in this blog. 

Why Ignorance of Age  Isn’t  A  Defense

The law assumes that adults have a responsibility to verify the age of their sexual partners before engaging in sexual activity. This responsibility includes checking identification or asking questions to confirm the person’s age. While these steps may seem excessive, especially if you’ve just met someone at a bar or club, it’s the only way to be sure you won’t be charged with statutory rape. This makes vetting potential sex partners and verifying their age both necessary and valuable. After all, most adults are not interested in becoming involved with a child in the first place and would not pursue a sexual relationship if the minor was truthful about their age.

The consequences for violating Minnesota’s statutory rape laws can be severe. Statutory rape is a felony offense in Minnesota. A conviction can result in lengthy prison sentences and lifelong registration as a sex offender. In addition to the legal consequences, those convicted of statutory rape may face social stigma and damage to their reputation. They may lose their job, have to move to a new home, lose friends, and even be ostracized by their entire community.

Statutory Rape Lawyers In Minnesota 

It’s important to protect yourself by keeping in mind that ignorance of age is not a legal defense for a statutory rape charge. If you’re uncertain about a potential sexual partner’s age, it’s your responsibility to verify their age before engaging in sexual activity. By doing so, you can avoid committing a serious criminal offense.

If you’ve been charged with statutory rape because you were lied to, our Minnesota sex crime lawyers can help you build a valid defense. There are several legal avenues we can take to prove your innocence or minimize the impact of a conviction, depending on the details of your case. It may be possible to have your charges reduced or completely dropped. Our Minnesota sex crime defense lawyers will do everything possible to protect your rights. Contact us.

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