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What Is the Age of Consent in Minnesota? 

Feb 12, 2024

Young children and teens are often unable to make fully informed decisions, as they do not have the mental capacity or level of maturity necessary to properly separate right from wrong. 

It is for that very reason that the age of consent — and laws surrounding it — exist, intending to lessen the occurrence of sexual misconduct and abuse between minors and older individuals. 

What Does It Mean to Consent?

Generally, to give consent is to allow something to happen or to agree to do something. 

Engaging in sexual relationships requires consent; under that context, Minnesota law defines consent as the explicit words or actions that indicate a freely given agreement to perform sexual acts. When sexual contact isn’t consensual, several serious concerns arise.

The Age of Consent in Minnesota

For the eyes of the law to recognize a person’s consent, that person must be of a specific age, most often between 16 and 18. In Minnesota, the consenting age is 16 years old, which means a person must be at least 16 to be considered competent enough to consent to sexual activity with another individual. 

There are cases, though, in which the age of consent in Minnesota changes; for instance, if a 16-year-old enters a relationship with a person in an authoritative position, the age of consent would increase to 18. 

Why Is Age of Consent Important?

Understanding the age of consent is crucial, as the law aims to minimize the likelihood of a child experiencing sexual abuse or exploitation. Age of consent laws protect minors who may not have the maturity or capacity to make informed decisions concerning sexual activity and relationships. Furthermore, age-of-consent laws provide clear guidelines for the prosecution of those who engage in intentional sexual conduct with minors. 

What Is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape occurs when someone engages in sexual activity with a minor — an individual younger than the legal age of consent. Statutory rape is a serious crime, regardless of whether the younger individual gives consent.

There are several offenses listed under Minnesota’s statutory rape statute, including criminal sexual conduct from the first to the fourth degree:

Fourth-degree sexual conduct involves two conditions: sexual conduct between a child under 13 and someone less than three years older, or such conduct between a teen of 13 to 18 years of age and a person more than four years older than them in an authoritative position. 

Third-degree sexual conduct involves sexual penetration between a child under 13 and someone not more than three years older than them. Relationships between a 13-to-16-year-old and someone more than two years older than them, as well as those between 16-to-18-year-olds with someone four years older in an authoritative position, also fall under this context.

Second-degree sexual conduct indicates that a sexual act has occurred between an individual 13 to 16 years of age with someone who is at least four years older. Additionally, a person in power could face criminal sexual conduct charges in the second degree.

Finally, a first-degree sexual conduct charge is the most serious, indicating sexual penetration with a minor under the age of 13 by someone three or more years older than them. It may also involve a minor between 13 and 16 who someone in an authoritative position has inappropriately touched.

Getting Legal Guidance From a Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Age of consent should always be taken seriously. If a minor loved one has experienced sexual abuse, do not wait to discuss your case with a sexual abuse attorney, as they can provide much-needed support and quality representation.