For over 30 years, intentionally grabbing someone's butt has been excluded from Minnesota's criminal sexual conduct statute. The law specifically states that the definition of "sexual contact" "does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks." Otherwise, nonconsensual sexual contact is considered fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, along with masturbation or the lewd exhibition of genitals before a minor under 16.
The language exempting even intentional groping of a clothed butt from the definition of the offense could soon be taken out, if a state senator from Maple Grove has his way. His bill to eliminate the exemption has just been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to MPR News, the clothed-buttocks groping was originally exempted from the criminal sexual contact law because lawmakers felt the criminal penalties were too harsh. Currently, the penalties are as follows:
- First offense: Gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year's imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $3,000
- Additional offenses within 7 years of the first, including some out-of-state offenses: Felony punishable by up to 7 year's imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $14,000
The bill would also repeal an exception for marital rape from the state's criminal sexual contact laws. That exception has prevented prosecution of cases where people were accused of criminal sexual misconduct involving a spouse.
Plans to recriminalize clothed-buttocks groping began last year as a result of the #MeToo movement, according to MPR. In 2017, two legislators had to resign from office after they were accused of making repeated sexual advances on unwilling women. That same year, U.S. Senator Al Franken resigned, in part due to allegations of clothed-buttocks groping.
The bill made it through both the Minnesota House and Senate in 2018 as part of an omnibus budget bill, but that bill was vetoed.