Illinois Sex Crimes

An explanation of Illinois sex crimes

by Sami Azhari on March 5, 2012

The accusation of sexual misconduct can be devastating for a defendant. First, the person is tried in the court of public opinion, and almost always found guilty when his or her mug shot appears in the news. Second, regardless of any sentence imposed in a criminal case, the defendant will be required to register as a sex offender. In many respects, the requirement of registration as a sex offender is a more punitive sanction than any sentence a court can fashion.

That being said, the defendant is still protected by the presumption of innocence. The prosecution has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of 12 people who do not always side with the police.

I have a strong opinion that in most sex cases, the defendant should plead not guilty and demand trial. These cases are harder for the State to win than most expect.

But before any decision is made, it is important to know the law. The statutes against sexual assault and sexual abuse used to be found under Section 11, but the state legislature moved them over to Section 12 in the year 2011.

This article is a summary of Illinois sex laws. Under no circumstances should it serve as a substitute for legal advice.

Criminal Sexual Assault

Illinois law does not use the term ‘rape’ in sex crimes. What other people may consider rape, state lawmakers have termed ‘criminal sexual assault.’ The intent of the legislature in discarding the term rape was to lessen the stigma attached to the crime, and therefore encourage more victims to come forward and pursue the offender in court.

Criminal sexual assault is found in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/12-13. The offense is a felony. Criminal sexual assault is categorized as a Class 1 felony offense, with a potential penalty of 4 to 15 years in prison. This charge is a non-probationable felony. That means that the judge is not permitted under the law to sentence the offender to probation. A prison sentence is mandatory. Therefore, the minimum penalty for criminal sexual assault is 4 to 15 years in prison.

If the defendant has a prior conviction for sexual assault, then a second or subsequent offense is a Class X felony. The possible sentence on a second offense is 6 to 30 years in prison, or 30 to 60 years as an extended sentence, or the natural life of the offender.

Criminal sexual assault consists of the following elements:

Sexual penetration combined with one or more of the following:

  • Force or threat of force.
  • The victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or to give knowing consent.
  • The victim was under 18 years of age and the defendant is a family member.
  • The victim was at least 13 years old but under 18 years of age, and the defendant was 17 years of age or older and held a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim.

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault

Illinois law says that a person who commits aggravated criminal sexual assault is guilty of a Class X felony. The crime is codified at section 720 ILCS 5/12-14.

A Class X felony is non-probationable. Consequently, the court is not authorized to sentence the defendant to probation. Under no circumstances can a person who is found guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault receive a probationary sentence as opposed to imprisonment. The offense is punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison, with possible extended terms of 10, 15, 20, or 25 years for the use of a firearm during the commission of the offense, or natural life.

A second or subsequent offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault is a Class X felony. However, the offender would be sentenced to natural life in prison with no possibility of parole.

The defendant is guilty if he commits criminal sexual assault plus any one of the following aggravating factors:

  • Commission of the crime with a dangerous weapon.
  • Infliction of bodily harm.
  • Threatening the life of the victim or another person.
  • Commission of another felony.
  • The victim was 60 years old or older.
  • The victim was physically handicapped.
  • The defendant drugged the victim by delivering a controlled substance to the victim.
  • The defendant discharged a firearm during the commission of the offense.
  • The accused discharged a firearm during the offense and caused great bodily harm or death to another person.

A person may be guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault under a different factual scenario, as well. Under the following circumstances, a defendant is guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault due to the difference in age between the victim and the offender:

  • Sexual penetration where the victim was 8 years old or younger, and the accused was 16 years old or younger.
  • Sexual penetration where the victim was age 9 through 12, if force or threat of force was used.
  • The victim was severely profoundly mentally retarded, regardless of the age of the accused.

Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault

Illinois law provides that a person who commits predatory criminal sexual assault is guilty of a Class X felony with no possibility of probation. The charge of predatory criminal sexual assault is located in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/12-14.1. The statute provides that an offender must be sentenced to prison from 6 to 30 years. If the offender uses a firearm in the commission of the offense, an extended term of 15, 20, or 50 years may be added. The offender may also be sentenced to natural life. A second offense of predatory criminal sexual assault has a mandatory life sentence.

Predatory criminal sexual assault consists of the following elements:

  • Sexual penetration where the accused was 17 years of age or older and the victim was 12 years of age or younger. This is the minimum 6 to 30 years prison Class X felony of predatory criminal sexual assault.

The crime of predatory criminal sexual assault also occurs where there was sexual penetration and the accused was 17 years of age or older, and the victim was 12 years of age or younger and, in addition, the defendant carried a firearm, discharged a firearm, or caused great bodily harm to the victim that resulted in permanent disability or life threatening injury, or delivered a controlled substance to the victim.

Criminal Sexual Abuse

Criminal sexual abuse is the only sex crime on the books in Illinois for which the offense can be a Class A misdemeanor. The way it is written, the crime of criminal sexual abuse can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. But even where the offender is found guilty of a misdemeanor, he will still be required to register as a sex offender if found guilty.

Criminal sexual abuse is established in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/12-15. The statute provides that a person is guilty of a Class 4 felony where he commits sexual conduct in conjunction with either one of the following: a) force or threat of force; or b) the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or to give knowing consent.

A Class 4 felony has a sentencing range of 1 to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. A Class 4 felony is probationable. Therefore, the judge is authorized to sentence the defendant to probation as opposed to incarceration in either the county jail or state prison system.

A second or subsequent offense of criminal sexual abuse under the scenarios described previously is a Class 2 felony with a potential penalty of 3 to 7 years prison. A second or subsequent offense with those facts is also probationable.

A person is guilty of a misdemeanor offense of criminal sexual abuse where the person commits sexual conduct or penetration under any one of the following scenarios:

  • The victim was age 9 through 16, and the accused was under 17 years of age.
  • The victim was age 13 through 16, and the accused was 17 years of age or older, but not 5 years older than the victim.

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor offense in Illinois is up to one year in jail. That time would be subject to reduction for good behavior (50 percent).

It is a defense to the crime of criminal sexual abuse that the offender reasonably believed the victim was at least 17 years old.

Recently, the state legislature considered a bill which would provide an exception to the sex offender registration requirement for people who are convicted of criminal sexual abuse and later marry the victim. This law, called the Romeo and Juliet law, would have exempted defendants who were found guilty of criminal sexual abuse where they later married the victim of the crime. The bill was defeated in the legislature, and as of 2012, Illinois has no Romeo and Juliet law.

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse

Whereas criminal sexual abuse can be a Class A misdemeanor offense under certain circumstances, aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a felony. The law says that a a defendant would be guilty of a Class 2 felony and faces 3 to 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The offense is codified at 720 ILCS 5/12-16.

The statute provides that a person is guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse if he commits criminal sexual abuse and any one of the following circumstances is present:

  • The defendant used a dangerous weapon.
  • The defendant caused bodily harm.
  • The victim was 60 years old or older.
  • The victim was physically handicapped.
  • The defendant threatened the life of the victim or another person.
  • The defendant committed another felony.
  • The accused drug the victim with any controlled substance.

A person would be guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse if he commits sexual conduct and any one of the following scenarios is present:

  • The victim was 17 years of age or under, and the accused was a family member. (Note that this is the only scenario in which the age of consent is higher than normal.) For all other sex acts in Illinois, the age of consent is 17 years old. But where sexual conduct occurs between family members, the age of consent is 18 years old. Also note that the Code of Corrections provides a special sentencing provision for these cases. In these cases, the defendant must pay for counseling for the victim. The law defines a ‘family member’ as a parent, grandparent, step-parent, step-grandparent, child, step-child, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle, or someone who lives with the family for 6 months.)
  • The victim was 12 years old or younger and the accused was 17 years old or older.
  • The victim was 13 through 16 years old, and the defendant, age 17, used force or threat of force.
  • The victim was 8 years of age or younger, and the defendant was 17 years old or older.
  • The victim was age 9 through 16 and the accused was 17 years old and used force or threat of force.
  • The victim was severely or profoundly mentally retarded, and the defendant was any age.
  • The victim was age 13 to 17 and the offender was 17 years old or older and held a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim.

A person is guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse under one last scenario, where he or she commits an act of sexual penetration with the victim who is age 13 through 17 and the offender is 5 years older than the victim. Compare this to that misdemeanor offense of criminal sexual abuse, in which it would be a misdemeanor if the defendant were less than 5 years older.

It is an affirmative defense to the crime of aggravated criminal sexual abuse where the defendant reasonably believed that the victim was 17 years old.

And so, the foregoing is an overview of Illinois sex laws. As said, the constitutional protections for the defendant include the presumption of innocence, the prosecution’s burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to confront the accuser, the privilege against self-incrimination, and the right to a jury which must render a unanimous verdict. All these safeguards make every sex case winnable.

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