Advocates shocked by Minnesota court ruling dismissing conviction in which rape victim was drunk
(FOX 9) - A Minnesota Supreme Court ruling this week is prompting an outcry from victims and victim advocates of sexual assault and helping to move along a bill in the state legislature that would update Minnesota’s laws on what it means to be "mentally incapacitated."
In the decision, judges ruled in favor of a man convicted of sexual assault for raping a woman who said she was passed out drunk at the time.
"Frustration, disappointment, and also not shocked at all," said Megan Curtis, a lawyer and sexual assault survivor.
As a lawyer, Curtis wasn’t surprised by the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling.
"Their job is to enforce the law as the legislature writes it and when something is seen as ambiguous, it makes it hard for the courts, and they don’t want to overstep their role," explained Curtis.
But as a victim of rape herself, she’s devastated for the victim in the court case.
"Women should be allowed to drink and become intoxicated and not feel as though they’re going to be raped," said Curtis. "It just shouldn’t happen at all."
What the state’s highest court ruled on Wednesday is this: The definition of "mentally incapacitated" doesn’t include a person who becomes drunk after voluntarily consuming alcohol or drugs.
The decision reverses a 2019 rape conviction and orders a new trial for the man convicted of raping a woman in Hennepin County while she was drunk. It’s a loophole in the state’s criminal sexual conduct statute that Rep. Kelly Moller has been working to change. She introduced legislation earlier this year in the House that’s had bipartisan support.
"Our legislation would provide the tools in the toolbox that a prosecutor needs to be able to charge a case when a defendant knows or has reason to know the victim is intoxicated to the degree she is incapable of consenting," explained Moller.
Curtis says she’ll be pushing her legislators to act and hope others do too.
"Ask them to vote this bill through and make this change so that this doesn’t happen again to another victim," Curtis added.
The House bill now moves onto the ways and means committee. Rep. Moller tells FOX 9 she is hoping it gets to the full House floor next month – which is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month.