SAINT PAUL, Minn. – A series of overdue protections against sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence was approved as part of a broader package of Public Safety legislation by the Minnesota House and Senate early Saturday morning. Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview), an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, is the chief author of several of these initiatives.
“I’m incredibly proud of the victims, survivors, and advocates who shared their voices and highlighted the numerous ways in which our state must improve the way we handle these heinous, unimaginable actions,” Rep. Moller said. “Minnesotans recognize that those who commit these crimes need to be held accountable and this session we made it a priority to strengthen our laws to ensure they can be.”
One initiative championed by Rep. Moller would create a working group to examine the state’s current criminal sexual conduct statutes. The current law has numerous loopholes and inconsistencies, creating situations in which an assault has occurred but prosecution is extremely difficult. Rep. Moller and advocates have noted an entire re-write of the statutes may be necessary to ensure survivors are able to seek justice.
Another measure would direct the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to create a model sexual assault investigation policy for law enforcement agencies and require them to adopt a clear policy for these cases. Too often, the level of trauma experienced by survivors isn’t fully recognized over the course of investigations, presenting difficulties in concluding them and ultimately bringing charges.
Rep. Moller’s proposal to clarify the definition of first degree criminal sexual conduct was also included in the legislation. In response to a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the measure clarifies sexual penetration is not required for a first degree criminal sexual conduct conviction if the victim is under age 13.
Other proposals earning legislative approval include one removing the exemption for unwanted touching of the buttocks from the criminal sexual conduct statute, creation of a task force to investigate the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women endemic, allowing domestic abuse no contact order violations to be admitted into evidence, establishing criminal penalties for peace officers who have sexual relations with people in custody, and the definition of “position of authority” in the criminal sexual conduct statute being broadened. Legislation to remove the state’s so-called “marital rape” exception was signed into law previously this session.
The measures were included within SF 8, the Omnibus Public Safety and Judiciary Budget bill. Governor Walz is expected to sign the legislation into law.