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Minnesota legislators move to close “intoxication loophole”

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- Minnesota prosecutors should soon be able to charge rapists who assault victims who willingly got drunk beforehand.

"For so long I have heard from survivor after survivor about how the prosecutor sat them down and said listen, under the law, we basically can't charge this," survivor and advocate Abby Honold said.

The "intoxication loophole" took a spotlight this March, after a state Supreme Court ruling said third degree criminal sexual conduct charges only apply when a victim is given alcohol or other substance "without a person's agreement."

“We need to stand with the survivors of sexual assault during this turbulent time. The law should never be on the offender’s side and we must give survivors the justice they deserve,” said Sen. Dave Senjem, (R) Rochester. “This bipartisan bill helps to protect our most vulnerable by prioritizing safety for all Minnesotans.”

The House and Senate voted to pass the Judiciary and Public Safety budget earlier this week. The budget included a slew of criminal sexual misconduct reforms; including increasing penalties for sexual predators, making sexual exploitations a crime and changing the language in the law to allow "voluntarily intoxicated" rape victims access to the highest legal charges against their abuser.

"All good things, I think, and all important to different people at different times," Senjem said.

Senjem helped co-author the bill.

"It just shouldn't happen, and in our society, it does," he said. "But, we are going to make sure that in this law, that individuals that are part of voluntary intoxication situation that that rapist is going to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

It's a victory for lawmakers, survivors and advocates.

"I think this will give people a path to justice that they haven't had before," Honold said.

Honold says it's easy for the work in sexual assault reform to feel overwhelming, but it's important to celebrate wins when possible.

"I'm sad for everyone who had this trauma that happened, before the law was passed," she said. "And that they won't ever be able to see the inside of a courtroom and se justice for what happened to them. But, I'm incredibly grateful that victims will be able to come forward and there won't be this big road block in their way."

The bill passed in the House 75 to 59 and in the 45 to 21 in the Senate. It's not clear when Gov. Tim Walz might sign the bill.

Beret Leone

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