In Minnesota, the consequences of a sex crime conviction are severe. Incarceration—being sent to jail or prison—is the most obvious consequence. State and federal laws punish sex crimes severely, and many carry long prison sentences. Sex offenders can also face mandatory participation in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which can include a registration requirement.
There are also other, lesser-known consequences. These consequences, known as “collateral consequences,” are legal sanctions and restrictions imposed upon people because of their criminal records. Collateral consequences can be hard to anticipate, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. Many can have a lifetime impact. For instance, they can limit what kind of job you can have and where you can live.
Minnesota Sex Offender Program – A Possible Lifetime Sentence
If you face prison time for an offense considered to be “high risk” under Minnesota’s Civil Commitment and Treatment Act, you may then face mandatory participation in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at the end of your prison term. This program has been the subject of a great deal of controversy. You may have heard about it in the news recently, as the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota found it unconstitutional.
It is unknown exactly how the court’s finding will impact the treatment program. What we do know is this: In 20 years of operation, almost 1000 people have been involuntarily committed. Not one has ever been fully discharged. This essentially means that certain convicted sex offenders in our state face an indefinite, lifetime sentence. They will never graduate. They will never be deemed “recovered.” And they will never be free to return to their families.
Of course, all this could change. While the judge who presided over the case, the Honorable Donovan W. Frank, did not order that anyone be released, he did urge the state government to attend a pre-hearing conference in August to discuss the next steps.
Registration as a Sex Offender
In Minnesota, convictions for certain offenses carry with them a registration requirement. If you are convicted of these offenses, you must report as a criminal sex offender with the Minnesota Predatory Offender Registration. All registrants are required to register for a minimum period of 10 years or the duration of their probation, whichever is longer. Some registrants are required to register for life.
When you are on the registry, you must:
- Report any changes to your address, employment, school or the vehicle that you drive
- Return special Verification Forms that are routinely sent to you
- Comply with city and local ordinances that limit where you can live
- Comply with the conditions of your probation or parole, which may limit where you can live and who you can have contact with
What happens if you don’t register? If you are convicted for failure to register, you could face over one year in prison and five additional years of registration. If this happens more than once, the penalties increase.
Avoiding the Consequences
The best way to avoid the consequences of a conviction is to avoid the conviction itself. Sex offense cases are notoriously complex, and there is a lot at risk. Your lawyer should have the knowledge and skill necessary to effectively handle the complexities.
For example, many of the events allegedly involved in sex crime cases happened in private with no additional witnesses other than the accuser. They depend extensively on the accuser’s testimony, which may be in error, made up just to hurt you or to cover up consensual sex. Sometimes, accusers lie to protect their own reputations from friends or family. Other times, false allegations of molestation are made up to gain leverage in a divorce or child custody dispute. A skilled attorney can help the court see through false testimony.
Your attorney can also examine the evidence against you to determine whether it was collected illegally. The law places very strict guidelines on search and seizure of computer files, photographs, records, DNA samples and other evidence. When the police do not follow these guidelines, the court should not admit the illegally-collected evidence to be used against you in your case.
At White & Associates, we review all aspects of sex offense cases to build strong and effective defenses. You are welcome to talk with us about the charges you face and the best way to avoid the exceedingly harsh consequences of a conviction.