Lawmakers push to amend definition of mentally incapacitated after Supreme Court ruling, other changes

    Chambers of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Courtesy Minnesota Judicial Branch.

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday said they intend to close a number of loopholes in the state’s sexual assault laws to ensure victims receive justice. 

    Spurred by a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that sparked widespread national outcry, the series of changes have been in the works since 2019 when the group was first created. 

    The state Supreme Court recently ruled that a person cannot be found guilty of third-degree sexual criminal sexual conduct for assaulting a person they know is mentally incapacitated —  if the victim voluntarily drank alcohol or ingested drugs. 

    The legislation would modify the definition of “mentally incapacited” to say “a person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance to a degree that renders them incapable of consenting or incapable of appreciating, understanding, or controlling the person’s conduct.”

    Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, who is a Hennepin County prosecutor, said lawmakers need to act: “While we are thankful for the attention the Supreme Court (decision) caused, we shouldn’t wait for other bad case law to make the other important changes in the bill.”

    The package would make age-related changes intended to protect children, as well as the creation of a new crime of sexual extortion. According to the bill language, sexual extortion would be when someone threatens harm — other than physical harm — to a victim using extortion or blackmail to compel a victim into unwanted sexual contact.

    A Minnesota Senate committee, meanwhile, is preparing to hear a stand-alone bill on Wednesday evening to amend the definition of mentally incapacited following the state Supreme Court ruling. 

    “We are incredibly grateful that the Senate tonight is hearing the mental incapacitation language, but we are hopeful that they will consider the entire bill (package),” Moller said.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.