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  • Writer's picturePeter Lindstrom, Esq.

Strategically Confronting Third-Degree CSC Charges in Minnesota: A Defense Attorney’s Insight

As a dedicated criminal defense attorney in Minnesota, I stand at the front lines of justice, representing individuals confronted with serious legal challenges. One of the more challenging charges is third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC). Minnesota created a whole task force to investigate how to re-write the CSC statutes because they had been “confusing and unwieldly” since its inception. Unfortunately, even after the legislature made modifications to the statutes, it‘s still tremendously complex and works under logic that I frankly disagree with. But broadly speaking, 1st degree and 3rd degree CSC generally involve allegations of penetration and 2nd, 4th, and 5th degree CSC involves allegation of sexual contact not involving penetration. This article explores 3rd degree CSC charges.

Understanding Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Minnesota

In Minnesota, third-degree CSC is a grave matter, involving allegations of sexual penetration where the victim may have been coerced, where the alleged perpetrator took advantage of a victim who was mentally impaired, inebriated, or otherwise incapable of giving consent. The severity of these charges reflects the serious nature of the alleged crime and the profound impact such an act can have on all individuals involved.

These cases are inherently complex and demand a meticulous approach to the legal defense, where the consequences for the accused can include lengthy prison sentences, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and enduring personal and professional fallout.

Strategies for Defense

1. Scrutinizing the Evidence

A key defense strategy involves a critical examination of the prosecution's evidence. This includes an assessment of how the evidence was collected, the continuity of its custody, and its overall reliability. A frequent area of critique in 3rd degree CSC cases is DNA. How was it collected? What was the results? What does it mean? There are cases where this issue alone is the difference between winning and losing at trial.

2. Analyzing Consent

The question of consent are central to certain CSC cases. For third-degree charges, the defense may involve establishing that there was a genuine and reasonable belief in the victim's consent. This often requires a detailed look at the interactions between the parties and the context in which the events occurred.

3. Capacity to Consent

For charges hinging on the victim's capacity to consent, investigation into the circumstances that created the alleged lack of capacity becomes crucial. If the complaining witness was allegedly intoxicated, how much did they actually drink? If the complaining witness had mental instability, what was the extent of their problems? There’s a difference between adults whose ability to interact with the world is the equivalent of an 8 year old and an adult who manages fine in the world outside of some relatively benign mental health issues. Every case is different.

4. The Alibi Defense

If the defendant was not present at the time and location of the alleged incident, establishing a strong alibi is vital. Documentary evidence, electronic records, and witness statements can corroborate the defendant's whereabouts, significantly undermining the prosecution’s case.

The Attorney-Client Relationship

An open, transparent, and confidential attorney-client relationship can be critical in CSC cases. Trust is fundamental, as clients must feel secure to discuss sensitive details necessary for building a defense. I understand that can be difficult. But the more we are able to communicate about the allegations, the more I am able to craft the best legal strategy to help you.

Plea Bargaining Considerations

While preparing for a possible trial, I also engage in strategic discussions regarding plea bargaining. While not the preferred route for every case, negotiating a plea can sometimes be in the best interest of the client, especially when the evidence is overwhelming. The decision to take a plea deal or go to trial is always exclusively the client’s. If you don’t want the plea offer, we’re going to trial.


Defending against third-degree CSC charges in Minnesota requires an dynamic, informed, and strategic legal defense tailored to the intricacies of each case. The nuances of the alleged incident, the collection and quality of evidence, and the interpretation of consent all play critical roles in the defense strategy.

For those accused, the importance of securing an experienced defense attorney promptly cannot be overstated. Early intervention and a proactive defense approach are often the keys to a favorable outcome. An accusation, while serious, is not the final word. With a steadfast defense attorney, your rights will be vigorously defended, ensuring your voice is heard and your case is presented with the strength it demands.

Contact Subzero Criminal Defense and we may be able to start working on you case as soon as today. 651-248-5142. Subzero Criminal Defense provides a defense with intelligence, creativity, and grit.


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