Predatory Registration Required When Defendant Acquitted of Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in an unpublished opinion filed January 11, 2011 that a Defendant who was acquitted by a jury of two-counts of criminal sexual conduct is still required to register as a predatory offender because he was convicted of additional charges arising out of the same set of circumstances.

Defendant allegedly provided alcoholic beverages to a 20-year old and 15-year old. The 15-year old became very intoxicated and passed out. When she awoke it is alleged that Defendant was touching her breasts and had his hand down her pants. Defendant was charged with two-counts of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct as well as two-counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and one-count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A jury acquitted Defendant of the two criminal sexual conduct charges, but found him guilty of furnishing alcohol to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The state requested that Defendant be ordered to register as a predatory offender under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1b(a)(1). The court granted the state’s request and concluded that Defendant was required to register as a predatory offender because the charges he was convicted of arose out of the same set of circumstances as the criminal sexual conduct charges.

Minnesota law requires a person to register as a predatory offender if they are charged with first, second, third or fourth degree criminal sexual conduct if the person is “convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for that offense or another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances.” Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1b(a)(1)(iii).

This requirement makes dealing with a criminal sexual conduct charge very difficult because even if the criminal sexual conduct charge is dismissed, or in this case, Defendant was acquitted of the charges, a plea or finding of guilt on another charge that occurred at the same time can still carry with it a collateral registration requirement.

There is no doubt that this predatory registration requirement has a legitimate public safety purpose; however, in this case is overreaching and unfair. If a jury acquits a defendant of criminal sexual conduct, the defendant should not still be required to register as a predatory offender. Though acquitted, this registration requirement treats the person as if he or she were a convicted sex offender in the eyes of the community.

In addition, the registration requirement gives the state prosecution too much power in charging. Though the state must have probable cause before charging a person with a crime, in cases where several charges are brought against a defendant, only an outright acquittal will ensure the defendant will not have to deal with the registration requirement. Typically, in criminal matters, the state will offer a defendant a settlement agreement in order to avoid trial. In criminal sexual conduct cases, where a conviction can result in mandatory prison time as well as a predatory registration requirement, a defendant runs an extreme risk in contesting charges and taking the matter to a jury. This sometimes results in defendants taking plea agreements in order to avoid prison time even when they do not feel they committed any wrongdoing. In cases where a plea agreement is reached, and even if the plea agreement dismisses the criminal sexual conduct charges, the defendant is still treated like a sex offender and required to register because whatever charge the defendant admitted to in the agreement is determined to have arisen out of the same set of circumstances.

A person is innocent until proven guilty. In this case the Defendant may have been proven innocent by a jury, but he will be treated as if he were guilty by society. In the interests of justice, a statutory exception should be made for cases like this where a jury finds a defendant not-guilty because a not-guilty finding should not should not make a person a predatory offender.