Minnesota’s Line in the Sand: Breaking Down the Age of Consent

age of consent in minnesota

The age of consent is an important legal concept that refers to the minimum age at which a person is considered capable of legally consenting to sexual activity with another individual.

In Minnesota, the age of consent is 16 years old. This means that anyone younger than 16 cannot legally consent to sexual conduct, and an adult who engages in sexual activity with a minor under 16 can be charged with statutory rape or other sex crimes.

This guide takes a closer look at Minnesota’s age of consent, statutory rape, and related laws to help you better understand the legal age to consent to sex in MN.

Minnesota Age of Consent Laws Explained

In Minnesota, the baseline age of consent is 16 years old. This means that generally, sexual contact with a person aged 16 or older is legal.

However, Minnesota law includes several exceptions to this baseline age of consent. These laws are meant to protect minors from coercion and exploitation.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • If one person is under 14, sexual contact is strictly illegal, even if the minor consents and the older person mistakes their age. There are no defenses permitted.
  • If one person is 14-15 years old, they cannot consent to sexual contact with anyone more than 36 months older than them. Again, the mistake of age is not a defense unless the older person is less than 60 months older and reasonably believed the minor was 16 or over.
  • The law prohibits sexual contact between a minor aged 16-17 and a partner in a current or recent position of authority over them, regardless of consent or age. This includes teachers, coaches, supervisors, etc.
  • If one partner has a significant relationship with a 16-17-year-old, such as a stepparent or guardian, sexual contact is also illegal regardless of consent or mistake of age.

Importantly, these age of consent laws apply equally regardless of the sexual orientation of the parties involved. Violating Minnesota’s age of consent laws brings criminal penalties, harsher in cases of aggravated criminal sexual conduct involving force, multiple acts, injury to the minor, and other such circumstances.

In certain situations with a 16-17-year-old complainant, the court may waive sentencing if it determines this is in the best interest of the minor and the offender is amenable to completing a treatment program.

The complexity of Minnesota’s age of consent laws demonstrates the need for experienced and thorough criminal defense attorneys if you’re facing a sex crime charge.

Statutory Rape Definition and Penalties in Minnesota

In Minnesota, statutory rape applies when two parties engage in sexual contact or penetration and one of those parties is younger than 16. Minnesota defines it as criminal sexual conduct and is classified into five degrees.

Certain mitigating and aggravating factors, like the age difference between the two parties, can determine which charges apply.

Here’s a breakdown of the charges.

Charge Classification Penalties
Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree Felony Up to 30 years prison; $40,000 fine
Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree Felony Up to 25 years prison; $25,000 fine
Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree Felony Up to 15 years prison; $30,000 fine
Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree Felony Up to 10 years in prison; $20,000
Criminal Sexual Conduct 5th Degree Gross Misdemeanor Up to 1-year imprisonment; $3,000 fine
Repeat violations Up to 5 years and a $10,000 fine
*Repeat violations are punishable by up to 5 years and a $10,000 fine

Are There Romeo and Juliet Laws? Close-in-Age Exceptions

Some states have enacted Romeo and Juliet laws to provide close-in-age exceptions for consensual sexual relationships between an adult and a minor. Also known as “close-in-age exemptions,” these make statutory rape charges less likely for young people and their partners who are close in age.

Minnesota has no Romeo and Juliet law. This means that even if two individuals under 16 have consensual sex in Minnesota, they could legally both be charged with statutory rape, although charges are uncommon in practice.

The lack of Romeo and Juliet laws in Minnesota means there is no exception to the age of consent laws for consensual relationships between young teens.

When Does a Mistake of Age Defense Apply in Minnesota?

As mentioned earlier, according to Minnesota law, a mistake of age defense can only apply in certain circumstances. If a person is charged with criminal sexual conduct for sexual contact with a minor aged 14-15 years old, mistake of age is a defense if:

  • the defendant is less than 60 months (5 years) older than the minor, AND
  • the defendant reasonably believed the minor was 16 years old or older.

In all other cases involving minors under the age of consent (16 in Minnesota), mistake of age is NOT a defense. That said, the mistake of age defense is very limited in Minnesota, making it all the more important to consult an attorney if you’re facing these serious allegations.

Turn to the Martine Law Firm for Dedicated Defense

Minnesota’s age of consent laws are complex. Even consensual relationships can lead to criminal charges that will stay on your record for life. Mistakes in judgment should not ruin your future.

Our sex crimes defense lawyer at Martine Law understands the nuances of these laws and how to build the strongest defense to get charges reduced or dismissed. If you or a loved one is facing investigation or prosecution for an alleged underage relationship, get an advocate on your side immediately.

Contact our office today for a free consultation. We have successfully defended dozens of statutory rape cases by highlighting exceptions and proving mistaken age. Let us protect your rights and your reputation.



Author Bio

Xavier Martine

Xavier Martine is the Founder of Martine Law, a Minnesota criminal defense and family law firm. Serving clients in Minneapolis, MN, and surrounding areas, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of criminal matters, including DWIs, drug charges, misdemeanors, domestic violence, and other criminal charges. He also represents clients in family law matters, including divorce, child support, and child custody.

Xavier received his Juris Doctor from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys Under 40 in Minnesota” in 2021 by The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. He was also named the “Best DUI Lawyer in Minneapolis” award in 2023 by Expertise.com and a “Rising Star” in 2023 by SuperLawyers.

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