A prominent Minnesota advocacy group is calling for changes in state law that would make it easier to prosecute rape and sexual assault in cases where alcohol or drugs cloud the issue of consent.

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA), said the state's current threshold for intoxication is "beyond reasonable'' because it allows a defendant to claim the victim agreed to sex even if extremely inebriated.

"Consent must be knowingly and freely given,'' the group said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

"Minnesota's laws are dated and need to be changed, as many other states have already come to understand...'' said Teri McLaughlin, MNCASA's executive director. "We've heard from advocates, survivors and prosecutors that it is challenging to prove that one was legally helpless or incapacitated, further harming their victim credibility when reporting.''

MNCASA's statement comes in the wake of a Star Tribune investigation that documented pervasive failings in the way Minnesota law enforcement agencies investigate sexual assault.

The third story, published Aug. 12, found that in cases where the victim had been drinking or using drugs, police are less likely to investigate allegations thoroughly and prosecutors are less likely to press charges.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman have both called for changes in state law like those proposed by MNCASA, arguing that ambiguity in the current statute allows suspects to claim the sex was consensual even when the victim was too intoxicated to walk or recall events.

Staff report