Version date: July 27, 2021
Update note: In a previous version of this paper, we stated that HF707 and SF1683 had not been passed. The changes in these two bills passed through a Public Safety and Judiciary Omnibus Bill. This version of the paper reflects this information.
In April of 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a ruling about a criminal sexual conduct case and called for a retrial. The Supreme Court said the perpetrator was not guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct because the survivor was voluntarily intoxicated.
This is the story behind the case: The survivor drank alcohol and took a prescription narcotic. The survivor and her friend tried to get into a bar in Dinkytown but were turned away because the survivor was too intoxicated. Then, Khalil, the perpetrator, and two men invited the survivor and her friend to a house party. When the survivor and her friend got to the house, there was no party. The survivor then “blacked out” and slept on the couch. When she woke up, she discovered Khalil penetrating her. She refused, saying “no, I don’t want to.” The survivor “then lost consciousness” and woke up again hours later, in the morning. That day, the survivor told her friend what happened and had a rape kit done.
The survivor then reported the event to the Minneapolis police department. Following an investigation, the State charged Khalil “with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless complainant.” The case was tried in court and Khalil was found guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The defense appealed the decision because of the legal definition of “mentally incapacitated.”
Minnesota’s Supreme Court heard the case and reversed the lower court’s decision. According to the requirements for third degree criminal sexual misconduct, a person is mentally incapacitated only if the substance was “administered to that person without the person’s agreement.” The Court said that, because the survivor voluntarily became intoxicated, she was not “mentally incapacitated” by the legal definition. And the third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge did not apply to the situation.
Minnesota’s Supreme Court said their responsibility was to interpret and implement laws as they are written (if they aren’t confusing). The legislature, the Court said, is responsible for changing laws.
There’s a bill in the Minnesota State House, HF707, and a companion bill in the the Minnesota State Senate, SF1683, footed for the 2021-2022 legislative session. The bill HF707, whose chief author is Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL) District: 42A, and whose co-author is Rep. Marion O’Neill (R) District: 29B, modifies several parts of Minnesota’s criminal sexual misconduct laws. (There are multiple authors for HF707 and SF1683 listed on the status pages for each bill on the Minnesota State Legislator website). Relevant to the Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the bill would redefine what a mentally incapacitated person is for criminal sexual conduct cases. This would be the new definition (if the current version of the bill doesn’t change) if HF707 passed:
“Subd. 7. Mentally incapacitated. “Mentally incapacitated” means: 6.18
(1) that a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other 6.19 substance, administered to that person without the person’s agreement, lacks the judgment 6.20 to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration; or 6.21
(2) that a person is under the influence of any substance or substances to a degree that 6.22 renders them incapable of consenting or incapable of appreciating, understanding, or 6.23 controlling the person’s conduct.”
The change is: a person is mentally incapacitated if they’ve had enough of a substance that they cannot consent or understand someone else’s conduct. This part of the new definition applies regardless of if they voluntarily or involuntarily consumed the affecting substances.
Why MN NOW Supports HF707:
MN NOW supports HF707. We believe survivors who were too intoxicated to consent deserve protection. Survivors who were voluntarily intoxicated deserve the same protection as those who were involuntarily intoxicated. Choosing to be intoxicated should not mean your perpetrator fits a lesser charge; the harm done is equal.