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NEWS: Intoxication and Rape

March 24, St. Paul — The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today under the state’s criminal sexual conduct (CSC) statute that the definition of “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol.

State Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview) is the chief author of legislation to comprehensively update Minnesota’s CSC statute, which includes recommendations of the CSC Statutory Reform Working Group, including one to close the intoxication loophole.

“Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. Our laws must clearly reflect that understanding, and today’s Supreme Court ruling highlights the urgency lawmakers have to close this and other loopholes throughout our CSC law,” Rep. Moller said. “Prosecutors, survivors, and advocates have identified the problem and the CSC Working Group did incredibly tough work to identify the solutions. Minnesotans who experience unthinkable trauma deserve to see the Legislature take action on this immediately.”

As the Supreme Court’s opinion notes: “nearly half of all women in the United States have been the victim of sexual violence in their lifetime—including an estimated 10 million women who have been raped while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” Nevertheless, the court found that for purposes of a CSC conviction, “a person is mentally incapacitated only if under the influence of alcohol administered to the person without the person’s agreement.”

The opinion went on to note the Legislature’s “unique institutional capacity” to address the issue, specifically citing the CSC Working Group and Rep. Moller’s legislation as a remedy.

The House Public Safety Committee approved Rep. Moller’s legislation on February 18 and the House Judiciary and Civil Law Committee approved it on March 11.

The bipartisan bill has not received a committee hearing in the Senate.