The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man who picked up a woman outside a bar, took her home, and had sex with her. Under state law, since the woman drank the alcohol willingly, the man could not be charged with third-degree criminal sexual misconduct.
The judges said the man could be charged with a gross misdemeanor — fifth-degree sexual conduct. The difference is that the third-degree assault charge carries a sentence of 15 years in prison while the misdemeanor would put the man in jail for one year.
Naturally, many women are outraged at the Minnesota Supreme Court.
This is absurd. Laws that don't define sex crime victims as mentally incapacitated if they voluntarily drink alcohol don't belong in our justice system. No one should be able with rape someone who is unconscious if they voluntarily drank. It has to change. https://t.co/QLQOW6YBlM
— Sarah Flourance, JD (@BookishFeminist) March 28, 2021
A rape conviction was thrown out in Minnesota because the victim was willingly intoxicated. This takes victim-blaming to a new level.
It should never be legal to sexually assault or rape anyone no matter their mental state.https://t.co/UImONWcc2p
— Amy Diehl, Ph.D. (@amydiehl) March 27, 2021
In this case, the judges’ hands had been tied by the state legislature, which wrote this cockamamie statute. The judges interpreted the law correctly, so if you’re going to rant against anyone, state lawmakers should be the target.
The ruling was released Wednesday after the case of Francois Monulu Khalil, who was convicted of a third-degree criminal sexual misconduct by a jury because the victim was drunk and mentally incapacitated. Khalil, a Minneapolis man, met his victim after she was denied entry to a bar for being too intoxicated.
The court’s unanimous decision was written by Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Pail Thissen. Thissen writes that the lower court’s definition of mentally incapacitated regarding the case “unreasonably strains and stretches the plain text of the statute” since the victim was intoxicated before she met Khalil, her attacker.
Why should it matter if a woman gets drunk on her own or not? Incapacitated is incapacitated and no man should be allowed to have sex with a woman who, under any reasonable interpretation of the statute, is incapable of consenting to the act.
Minnesota is just one of many states that draw this distinction. It was written to punish date-rapers who deliberately drugged their victims or got them drunk. It was never meant to be used as an invitation to have sex with drunk women.
Many are concerned about the consequences of this ruling, including Kelly Moller, a Democratic state representative for Minnesota.
“Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. Minnesotans who experience unthinkable trauma deserve to see the Legislature take action on this immediately,” Moller said.
They’re entitled to decent lawmaking. There are several states where there’s no distinction drawn between whether a woman drinks alcohol on her own or whether it’s fed to her before an assault.
Moller introduced legislation earlier this year to amend the third-degree sexual misconduct statutes to include language that says anyone who is intoxicated, for any reason, is unable to give consent.
“It makes it very clear that this issue needs to be fixed at the legislature,” Lindsay Brice, the law and policy director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said of the state Supreme Court’s Wednesday ruling.
No woman ever “asks for it” even if she gets falling-down drunk. But now that the error in the law is exposed, it will almost certainly be corrected — too late for the woman who suffered the trauma of being raped while unconscious and other women who became victims of a badly written law.