How Do Minnesota Sodomy Laws Compare to Oklahoma?
The Oklahoma Court of Appeals recently sparked controversy after ruling that the state’s forcible sodomy law does not apply when the victim is intoxicated or unconscious. The same is not true for Minnesota, as the legislature has written the statute more broadly than the statute at issue in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma court’s decision stems from accusations against a 17-year-old boy for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old female classmate. According to reports, the female victim became incapacitated after consuming alcohol. Two of her friends carried her to the defendant’s vehicle, where he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex. He then brought the girl, who was conscious at that point, to her grandmother’s house, and the family transported her to the local hospital. After a sexual assault examination, testing revealed the defendant’s DNA on the female. Testing also determined that the female’s blood-alcohol content was .341 – over four times the legal limit to drive in Minnesota.
The boy told police that the exchange was consensual, but the female, however, told investigators that she had no recollection of the activity ever occurring. Prosecutors initially charged the boy with First-Degree Sexual Assault and forcible oral sodomy, but later dismissed the sexual assault charge due to lack of evidence. A district court judge dismissed the forcible oral sodomy charge by reasoning that Oklahoma law does not explicitly contain language criminalizing sodomy where the victim is intoxicated or unconscious. The statute speaks to incapacitation through mental illness and unsoundness of mind, but makes no mention of intoxication or unconsciousness.
The case was appealed and Oklahoma’s appellate court unanimously upheld the lower court’s ruling stating, “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”
In Minnesota, by comparison, the statute is written more broadly to encompass various forms of incapacitation. The statute provides that individuals who are mentally incapacitated or “physically helpless” cannot consent to a sexual act. Minn. Stat. § 609.341(4). The statute goes further in defining mentally incapacitated to include individuals under the influence of alcohol and other substances lacking judgment to provide “reasoned consent” and physically helpless to include persons who are “asleep or not conscious.” Minn. Stat. § 609.341(7),(9).
Legislatures in Oklahoma have since taken action to modify the language of the statute in response to the court’s ruling to criminalize incidents where the victim is intoxicated or unconscious. Because Minnesota statutes are written more broadly to encompass such incapacitation, Minnesota is unlikely to face such controversy that Oklahoma is experiencing.