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Sexual assault victims not 'mentally incapacitated' if they voluntarily consume alcohol or drugs, MN Supreme Court rules

The decision has underscored efforts to change the loophole in state statute.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a person is not “mentally incapacitated” if they voluntarily consume alcohol or drugs and are sexually assaulted.

The ruling means Francios Khalil, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs in 2017, will be granted a new trial. The decision has also led to further calls to action to amend the state’s definition of mentally incapacitated.

In the 6-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that if someone voluntarily consumes alcohol or drugs, they are not “mentally incapacitated” under state statute, which applies to people who are under the influence of substances "administered to that person without the person’s agreement."

Wednesday's ruling stems from a 2017 case in which Khalil allegedly drove a woman to his North Minneapolis home after she was turned away from a Dinkytown bar. The woman had consumed five shots and a prescription pill beforehand.

The woman reported that she passed out at Khalil’s house and awoke to him raping her.

Khalil was charged and found guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless complainant.

But the Supreme Court’s ruling that the victim in this case could not be ruled mentally incapacitated and Khalil needs to be retried.

“It is certainly true that a commonsense understanding of the term mentally incapacitated could include a person who cannot exercise judgment sufficiently to express consent due to intoxication resulting from the voluntary consumption of alcohol,” the opinion reads.

“But here, we do not look at the ordinary, commonsense understanding of mentally incapacitated because the Legislature expressly defined the term in the general definitions section of Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct statutes.”

The decision put renewed attention on a bill introduced earlier this year authored by Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, and Rep. Kelly Moller, D-Shoreview, that would eliminate the voluntary consumption loophole.

"This ruling underscores the need to change our criminal sexual conduct laws to reflect the reality that all victims unable to consent need justice, not just those who have been forcibly intoxicated," O'Neill said in a statement. 

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