Minnesota Supreme Court Says Rape Is Not Rape If The Victim Gets Drunk Without Being Forced To Drink

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Minnesota Says Rape Is Not Rape If You Get Drunk Willingly

24-year-old Francois Khalil has served the majority of his five-year sentence for raping an unnamed woman in 2017, but he may soon be free thanks to the Minnesota State Supreme Court. 

The court ordered a new trial for Khalil after unanimously ruling. According to the ruling, the prosecution in his case presented an account to the jury that was not strictly illegal under Minnesota law. 

The case against Khalil hinged upon the fact that his victim was mentally incapacitated, and therefore unable to provide consent. However, Minnesota law only applies the idea of mental incapacitation to an individual who’s forced to drink alcohol or consume illicit substances against their will. 

If they take part of their own accord, then a loophole is present to avoid incapacitation. 

What did the Minnesota Supreme Court rule in the rape case? 

The court decided that based on the circumstances, the jury was given the wrong instruction by the judge overseeing the case. 

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Justice Paul Thissen wrote in the decision that “we apply that meaning and not what we may wish the law was or what we think the law should be.” 

The court is relying on a textualist interpretation of the law, one which provides no room for error and that can be used to overturn a decision that should have been obvious otherwise. Textualism has long been a problem for legal scholars and politicians in the U.S. specifically, who argue over the status and intentions of the legal framework created by the founding fathers. 

Often split down party lines, more progressive actors are generally in favor of the “living document” status of the U.S. Constitution, whereas conservatives tend to argue the fact that it’s an unalterable legal document that must be read as-is. 

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Textualism is often used to scapegoat poor arguments for overturning or ignoring the consequences of a harmful situation. 

In 2016, a criminal appeals court in Oklahoma ruled to dismiss a case of oral rape based on the fact that the law didn’t specifically mention that someone couldn’t be forced into sexual intercourse while unconscious. 

The appeals court’s decision at the time read, “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”

In the case of Minnesota state law, though, there are already several individuals and organizations calling for the loophole to be closed and the legislature to change the wording. 

Oftentimes, the onus is placed on the individual to avoid blacking out and strive for a semblance of personal responsibility. This is victim blaming.

While blacking out from consuming drugs or alcohol is unhealthy for a variety of reasons, a blacked out or unconscious person is not willingly offering themselves up as a target for a variety of predatory behavior. 

Many people unintentionally black out, or are stuck in the midst of self-destructive cycles where substance abuse is involved, and find themselves succumbing to this particular side effect of unhealthy coping. But any defense of rape that involves the idea that they’re deliberately looking to be assaulted is ludicrous.

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If anyone’s mugshot should be at the bullseye of a personal responsibility conversation, it should be the rapists. 

Surely, if the argument is that an individual should be accountable for any self-destructive behavior at all times, then others should also be accountable for their aggressions and impulses that ultimately harm others.

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Personal responsibility can’t possibly extend so far as to include the nefarious actions of other people. 

As a cis white man who believes that rapists are actually at fault in cases of rape, it’s astonishing to see just how many legal systems don’t necessarily agree, or that weasel away from meting out justice through any available technicality. 

In the Oklahoma case, there were laws on the books that would have served to convict the rapist if he’d forced vaginal or anal penetration. But since it was only oral rape, and the victim was unconscious, the law had no answer. 

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Kelly Moller, Democratic state lawmaker, has introduced a bill into the Minnesota legislature that would establish that anyone who’s intoxicated is incapable of consent. The bill is also designed to create a new crime, that of sexual extortion. 

Even though individual cases are being leveraged to close loopholes when they occur, there’s still a long way to go. The Washington Post points out that the majority of states have similar obstacles in place regarding the volunteer intoxication of victims. 

Until these loopholes are closed, the phenomenon of textual assault will present a formidable barrier to justice. 

Kevin Lankes, MFA, is an editor and author. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Here Comes Everyone, Pigeon Pages, Owl Hollow Press, The Huffington Post, The Riverdale Press, and more.