Those who get drunk on their own can’t be considered ‘mentally incapacitated’ in rape cases, Minnesota Supreme Court says

Paul Thissen
Justice Paul Thissen in a Feb. 25, 2016 file photo.
  • Rape victims who get drunk on their own aren't "mentally incapacitated," Minnesota high court said.
  • "Mentally incapacitated" applies when someone gets drunk without their consent, the court said.
  • Sexual assault survivors and advocates decried the ruling but said they weren't surprised.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

An individual who gets drunk on their own can not be qualified as "mentally incapacitated" in a rape case, the Minnesota Supreme Court said in a ruling released Wednesday.

The ruling comes in the case of man who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met following an incident where she was denied entry to a bar for being too drunk.

Francois Momolu Khalil was appealing the 2019 case in which he was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual misconduct because the woman was considered "mentally incapacitated."

Court documents from the appeal said Khalil and two of his friends invited the woman and a friend to a party but instead took them to a private home where the woman, who was only identified by her initials, blacked out.

She woke up to find Khalil raping her. After telling him to stop, she then passed out again.

In a decision written by Justice Paul Thissen, the state's supreme court said that the definition of "mentally incapacitated" - which was used by the lower court - "does not include a person who is voluntarily intoxicated by alcohol," meaning that the designation only applies when the alcohol was given to someone without their knowledge.

This "unreasonably strains and stretches the plain text of the statute," they added.

The ruling has garnered criticism from sexual assault survivors and advocates, including Abby Honold, who told MPR News that the language of the statute has always been a loophole that makes it difficult for sexual assault survivors to bring cases forward.

"There are a lot of people who are told when they report now, and when their case is referred to a prosecutor that essentially their sexual assault was technically legal. It's always so heartbreaking to have to hear that from yet another survivor who came forward and reported," Honold told the outlet.

In response to the ruling, state rep. Kelly Moller said she is sponsoring legislation that says consent can't be given if a victim is incapacitated, even if they voluntarily took drugs or alcohol.

"Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. Our laws must clearly reflect that understanding, and today's Supreme Court ruling highlights the urgency lawmakers have to close this and other loopholes throughout our CSC law," Rep. Moller said.

"Prosecutors, survivors, and advocates have identified the problem and the CSC Working Group did incredibly tough work to identify the solutions. Minnesotans who experience unthinkable trauma deserve to see the Legislature take action on this immediately."

Khalil is serving a five-year prison sentence but his lawyer, Will Walker, told MPR News that he anticipates he will be released soon.

Insider has reached out to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office for comment.

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