Mentally Incapacitated Does Not Include Voluntary Intoxication in MN Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases: State v. Khalil

Recently, Minnesota’s Supreme Court addressed the definition of mental incapacitation in the criminal sexual conduct statutes in State v. Khalil. Specifically, the court evaluated whether mental incapacitation includes someone who is voluntary intoxicated. Focusing on the word “voluntary”, the court determined that a person is mentally incapacitated if they are under the influence of alcohol. . . administered to that person without that person’s agreement, which is the definition in section 609.341, subdivision 7.

The Minnesota Supreme Court was mindful of its decision by noting at the outset of the opinion about how many millions of women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes and how alcohol and drugs play a factor in that. Further, members of the legislature are aware of the issue in Minnesota statutes and are working to try and fix the so-called loophole in the law. In this case, the Minnesota Supreme Court was looking at the very narrow definition of mental incapacitation and involuntariness. In doing so, it evaluated statutory interpretation and determined that “mentally incapacitated” is unambiguously substances, including alcohol, which cause a person to lack judgment to give reasoned consent without the person’s agreement. It reasoned that the prosecution’s interpretation of “mentally incapacitated” unreasonably strained and stretched the plain text of the statute.

The court goes on to list all the possible degrees of criminal sexual conduct, which include first through fifth degree and the potential charges under each code. The court also details the level of first through fourth degree criminal sexual conduct as a felony and fifth degree criminal sexual conduct can be a felony or gross misdemeanor offense. In doing so, the court reasons that the legislature made careful decisions about what constitutes criminal sexual conduct and what does not. In the same vein, the court goes on to discuss how the legislature has made changes in the past to the statutory definitions of criminal sexual conduct post-Minnesota Supreme Court decisions. The court just narrowly focuses on the definition of mentally incapacitated and whether it includes involuntary or voluntary intoxication.

In criminal sexual conduct cases, the terms “mentally impaired” “mentally incapacitated” and “physically helpless” all generally get included into a jury instruction. If someone is voluntarily intoxicated and a victim of rape, do they also fall under the definition of physically helpless if they were asleep or unconscious during the commission of the offense? The thought is that the victim is not able to withhold consent when they are unconscious or asleep and are physically helpless in that scenario. Despite the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in Khalil, there are other avenues available to prosecutors and the legislature to try and prosecute individuals in similar scenarios.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense lawyer and DWI attorney in Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him a Rising Star for the past six years; and the National Trial Lawyer’s Organization named him a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer the past seven years. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Criminal Defense Lawyer Woodbury MN; DWI Lawyer Woodbury MN; and Criminal Defense Attorney Minnesota.

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