The following information comes from a variety of sources including Central MN Sexual Assault Center, Wright County Attorney’s Office, Stearns County Attorney’s Office, and local law enforcement agencies. If you have been a victim of a sexual assault or know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, you may want to call and talk with a trained advocate about your experience. You may also download a packet of information from the section titled Informational Packets on what to do or say if you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual assault.
Reporting a Sexual Assault
A sexual assault is any sexual contact without a person’s consent. This can include attempted sexual assault. By Minnesota law, there is certain criminal sexual conduct that is chargeable as either a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor. Other sexual conduct may not be able to be charged criminally but that does not mean that behavior of a sexual nature that makes a person uncomfortable or is coerced or pressured is okay.
Whether or not what you have experienced would be considered criminal, it can still be traumatic. It is important that you reach out for help. Call Central MN Sexual Assault Center at 320-251-4357 to discuss your situation with a trained advocate. Information is confidential, unless a mandated report is involved. For a list of law enforcement agencies in Sherburne, Benton, Stearns, and Wright Counties, please see the bottom of the page. To file a report, you must report the crime to law enforcement where the sexual assault occurred.
- If you have been sexually assaulted within the past 120 hours, it is important that you seek medical attention right away. Go to the nearest hospital with an emergency room and the hospital staff will be able to do a sexual assault evidence collection kit and treat you for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and you may receive the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy from occurring.
- In Minnesota, state statute mandates that the county where the sexual assault occurred pay for the sexual assault evidence collection kit to be completed. This ensures that if a victim does not have insurance you are still able to get those services without having to pay a medical bill. Most hospitals will store the sexual assault evidence kit for at least a month for victims that are unsure if they want to make a report, that way if the victim decides to report at a later date that evidence may still be at the hospital for law enforcement.
- Crime victims who report their crimes to law enforcement in MN are also eligible for emergency funds through the state called Crime Victim Reparations Funds. Reparations funds can be used to pay for mental health, medical, and dental costs associated with the crime for which a victim’s insurance will not cover. Victim’s are required to fill out an application to receive these funds and applications are available at CMSAC.
It is a victim’s choice whether to report to law enforcement or not, the only time that law enforcement should be called automatically are in cases that involve mandated reports. Mandated reports are when minors under 18 or vulnerable adults are abused by someone in a position of authority over them or by someone who has a significant relationship to them such as a close family relative.
- What Happens After Making a Report to Law Enforcement
- Law enforcement’s job is to conduct the best possible investigation with the information that they have been given about a crime. When law enforcement has collected all of the evidence and talked to everyone involved, the case is then turned over to the County Attorney’s office for the prosecutor to make a decision about whether the alleged offender will be charged with a crime.
- The County Attorney’s Office has approximately 60 days to make a decision about whether to charge an individual with a crime. If the decision is made to charge an individual with a crime, the individual will have to attend a court hearing where the charges are read and conditions and bail is set before they are released from jail in most cases of sexual assault. There are times when the County Attorney’s Office decides not to charge an individual with sexual assault because the prosecutor doesn’t believe they have enough evidence to put the case before a jury and get a conviction. In these cases, the victim will receive a letter stating the reasons why the individual is not being charged with sexual assault. A victim has the right to meet with the prosecuting attorney to discuss the decision to not charge the perpetrator with sexual assault and the victim has a right to have an advocate present during this meeting.
- Contrary to what is shown on TV, people do not charge other people with crimes. People report crimes but it is the State of Minnesota, represented by the County Attorney’s Office who charge people with crimes. So, because of this, the victim is never required to attend any court hearing prior to trial. S/he is free to attend if s/he desires, but s/he is not required to attend.
Once an individual has been charged with sexual assault there are a number of court hearing that take place before the case goes to trial.
- The first time a defendant appears before a Judge is called the arraignment. A Rule 5 hearing will occur at this time, if necessary. If bail is not ordered, the defendant will be released on his/her “own personal recognizance.” Certain terms and conditions are often ordered, too, such as no contact with the victim, have no use or possession of alcohol, or do not leave the state without the Court’s permission.
- Gross Misdemeanor and Felony cases have additional hearings. At the Rule 8 hearing the prosecutor will supply the defense attorney with copies of the police reports, medical reports, etc. The Omnibus Hearing has to do with the defendant’s constitutional rights. Most cases do not have omnibus issues to argue. Once the omnibus hearing is waived, the case continues on.
- The pretrial conference is the last “stop” before a trial and is when the prosecutor offers the defense attorney a plea negotiation to settle the case before going to trial. The plea negotiation is developed based on several factors, including the strength of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the crime, and the willingness of the victim to testify are all factors that are weighed.
- Pleading guilty by a plea negotiation guarantees probation with terms and conditions. Jail time is usually either partially served or put on hold to “hover” over the defendant’s head for non-compliance with the terms and conditions of his/her sentence. If a plea negotiation is reached, the case will be set on for sentencing. If an appropriate plea negotiation cannot be reached, the case will be set on for trial.
- Less than 3% of all cases go to trial. Even when a trial date has been set, often the case still settles. As the trial date approaches, the victim will receive a subpoena which states that you must come to court to testify. If you do not, you could be found in contempt of court. If you are threatened about testifying, call law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney because tampering with a witness is a crime. Trials are either heard by a jury of 6 or 12 people (jury trial) or by a Judge only (court trial). Once both sides have presented their cases, each attorney will give a closing argument. The jury or Judge will then deliberate until it reaches a decision of guilty or not guilty. The decision must be unanimous for jury trials, a hung jury is when a unanimous decision cannot be reached, if that happens the prosecuting attorney has to decide whether to retry the case.
- If the defendant is found guilty, a date will be set on the court calendar for sentencing. If the defendant is found not guilty, s/he walks out of the courtroom a free person. At sentencing the defendant will stand before the Judge and receive the sentence. This is also the opportunity for the victim to read to the Judge how the crime has impacted their life. Once the sentencing is done, the case is turned over to the probation agent who will monitor the case. If the defendant does not comply with the terms of the sentence, s/he can be called back into court on a probation violation.
- If a crime is not reported, a victim still has the right to protection from their offender, if you would like information on how to file for an Order for Protection or an Harassment Restraining Order, please see the section on Safety Planning or call an advocate at 320-251-4357.
Victim Rights (MN Statute 611A)
- Be Informed of Court Proceedings
- The content of any proposed settlement offer
- Any court schedule changes when subpoenaed or requested to testify
- The final disposition of a criminal case
- The Prosecutor’s decision to decline prosecution of domestic assault, sexual assault, or harassment
- The availability of protection orders
- Information regarding a defendant’s appeal
- Be Involved in Court Procedures
- Present a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing
- Present objections to any settlement offers or proposed sentence
- Have input into pre-trial diversion decisions
- Request reparations for medical expenses or harm as a result of a crime
- Request restitution for financial loss as part of the offender’s sentence
- Request the prosecuting attorney to demand a speedy trial
- Request that the convicted violent crime offender submit to HIV testing
- Present a statement to the court, if the defendant is requesting expungement of the court records
- Be Protected from Harm
- Protection from threats or coercion from any person regarding their testimony
- A separate waiting area during court proceedings
- Protection from employer retaliation when required to testify or be present in court
- Request law enforcement to withhold access to public information identifying the victim
- Withhold a home or employment address, telephone number, or date of birth in court proceedings, unless court ordered
- Request notification of the offender’s release or transfer while in custody
- Request notification of the offender’s petition for expungement
Local Law Enforcement Agencies
- Benton County
- Benton County Sheriff’s Department: 320-968-7201
- Sartell Police Department: 320-251-8186
- Sauk Rapids Police Department: 320-251-9451
- Sherburne County
- Becker Police: 763-261-4300
- Big Lake Police: 763-263-2500
- Elk River Police: 763-635-1200
- Princeton Police: 763-389-4879
- Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department: 763-241-2500
- Stearns County
- Albany Police Department: 320-845-2200
- Avon Police Department: 320-356-7575
- Belgrade Police Department: 320-254-8282
- Cold Spring Police Department: 320-685-8666
- Eden Valley Police Department: 320-435-5452
- Holdingford Police Department: 320-746-2966
- Kimball Police Department: 320-398-2874
- Melrose Police Department: 320-256-7211
- MN State Highway Patrol: 320-255-4224
- Paynesville Police Department: 320-243-3434
- St. Cloud Police Department: 320-251-1200
- St. Joseph Police Department: 320-363-8250
- Sartell Police Department: 320-251-8186
- Sauk Centre Police Department: 320-352-2201
- Stearns County Sheriff’s Department: 320-259-3700
- Waite Park Police Department: 320-251-3281
- Wright County
- Annandale Police Department: 320-274-3278
- Buffalo Police Department: 763-682-5876
- Howard Lake Police Department: 320-543-3111
- Wright County Sheriff’s Department: 763-682-1162; serving Albertville/St. Michael, Clearwater, Cokato, Delano, Hanover, Hasty, Maple Lake, Monticello, Montrose, Otsego, Rockford, and South Haven Police Departments.