Minnesota needs to redefine “mentally incapacitated”

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault


Courtesy of Pixabay

Brooke Kruger, Opinion Writer

Media headlines have caused outrage this week, leading people to believe Minnesota courts are now using alcohol consumption as consent to sex. Francois Momulu Khalil met his rape victim in 2017 after she was refused entrance to a bar due to extreme intoxicationHe recently went to trial and received a lesser charge than the maximum because the victim did not fit the current description of “mentally incapacitated”. The media is now misleading the public to believe that the court denied that this was a rape case, simply because the victim was drunk.  

Social media users are circulating viral posts with headlines such as “In Minnesota, Alcohol = Consent” and “Alcohol means rape is ok”. The courts were in no way denying that this crime was rape, and it was being treated as such, still charging Khalil with sexual assault. The real problem was the way that the Minnesota Legislature defined “mentally incapacitated”. If this term was more inclusive, Khalil’s sentencing may have been more extreme and would not have included another trial 

According to the Minnesota state statute, being “mentally incapacitated” means “that a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance, administered to that person without that person’s agreement, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration”.  Because the victim voluntarily intoxicated herself and it was consensual, she did not fit the defined meaning of “mentally incapacitated”, allowing the defense a lesser punishment. The Minnesota Supreme Court was forced to hold that “the text, structure, and punctuation of the legislature’s one-sentence definition of mentally incapacitated supports Khalil’s interpretation of the statute – namely, that a person is mentally incapacitated only if under the influence of alcohol administered to the person without the person’s agreement.” 

This is a problem with how the Minnesota Legislature was written and the exclusivity of a legal definition. It essentially creates a loophole for rapists that allows them to escape severe punishment due to the victim’s own actions. To offer stronger protection for victims of alcohol-related crimes, the law needs to be fixed through the legislature, not the courts. Minnesota State Rep. Kelly Moller has introduced legislation to “amend the third-degree sexual misconduct statute to include those who are intoxicated and incapable of consenting to or understanding a sexual encounter”.  

On the other hand, media headlines need to be more accurate about the true situation rather than creating click-bait titles. Instagram users are reposting graphics with enraging headlines and spreading false information about the case and what is being said about the current laws. Social media users are encouraged to do their own research into credible and legal sources, rather than reposting from unreliable, biased media accounts 


Brooke Kruger is a Dakota Student News Editor. She can be reached at [email protected]