MN High Court Upholds Juvenile Criminal Sexual Conduct Conviction

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: MN criminal sexual conduct, special relationship, Minn Stat 609.342.

In the Matter of the Welfare of: B.A.H.. MN criminal sexual conduct, special relationship, Minn Stat 609.342

B.A.H. was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The victim, B.A.H.'s first cousin, was 13 years old and B.A.H. was 14 at the time of the conduct. B.A.H. was charged under a section of Minnesota Statutes 609.342 defining first degree criminal sexual conduct when "the actor has a significant relationship to the complainant and the complainant was under 16 years of age." B.A.H. moved to dismiss on the grounds that this section of the statute was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. The district court denied this motion, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed. In re Welfare of B.A.H., 829 N.W.2d 431 (Minn. Ct. App. 2013). The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. On April 9, 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the finding of guilt.

B.A.H. argued that technically, both of the participants could be labeled both as actors and complainants. In other words, both parties could be both the perpetrator and victim. But that did not render the statute unconstitutionally vague. The Court also held that application of the statute in this case did not violate equal protection. The Court detailed the reasons why the state prosecuted B.A.H. and not the victim. He had provided alcohol, initiated the conduct, and threatened the victim if she told anyone what happened. The victim, on the other hand, resisted. Even though the statute gives charging discretion, that discretion was not abused in this case.

Justice Page concurred, but was troubled by the fact that the majority had been silent in the face of the contention that the victim had also committed criminal sexual conduct. Justice Page noted that there was no evidence that B.A.H. had been a victim.

No. A12-1347 (Minn. April 9, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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