Rape is a serious and frightening crime, but it doesn’t always happen between strangers or in dark alleys under the cover of night – it often occurs between those who know each other. Regardless of the circumstances, every case involving sexual assault is defined by one factor: consent. And that’s something that may be changing in Illinois.
In Illinois and across the country, sexual assaults involving drugs and alcohol can be some of the most difficult to prosecute. Memory loss from drugs or alcohol as well as the questions of consent surrounding these cases make them a challenge.
This is why the Illinois state legislature has taken action by passing bills that more clearly define consent. Under the new law, if someone administers a controlled or intoxicating substance to another person without their consent, and it causes them to become unconscious or unaware of what they’re doing, then they are considered unable to give knowing consent.
Here’s what you need to know about how consent as defined in Illinois. We’ll go into how aggravating factors involved in cases of sexual assault can change the charges and penalties faced.
Criminal Sexual Assault in Illinois
The state of Illinois defines criminal sexual assault as an act of sexual penetration in which the person accused of the crime:
- Uses the threat of force or force
- Knows the victim cannot consent to the act or cannot give knowing consent
- Is related to the victim who is under the age of 18, or
- Is in a position of trust or authority of a victim who is between the ages of 13 and 18
What is Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault?
Under specific circumstances, criminal sexual assault can be elevated to aggravated criminal sexual assault. Certain factors must be present in the crime for this to occur.
Cases involving the use of weapons during the commission of the assault, for example, are changed in most cases to aggravated criminal sexual assault. It can also be elevated to aggravated sexual assault if:
- There was bodily harm done to the victim
- The victim is over the age of 60
- The accused acted in a way that threatened or endangered the life of the victim
- The victim is physically disabled
- The accused delivered a controlled substance without consent to the victim or through deception or threat
Consent in Illinois
It’s important to note that the age of consent in Illinois is 17. However, if the person accused of criminal sexual assault is in a position of trust or authority over the victim, then the age of consent is raised to 18.
In many cases, even victims who consent to sexual conduct with a defendant under the age of 17 in the state are not regarded as old enough to give their consent. Often, it’s still considered criminal sexual assault.
Some states have exemptions for victims and perpetrators who are close in age when it comes to consent, but this is not the case in Illinois. It is possible for someone who is 18 to be prosecuted for sexual assault if they have sex with someone who is under 17, even if it was consensual.
What Are the Punishments for Criminal Sexual Assault?
In Illinois, it’s a Class 1 felony to commit criminal sexual assault. Anyone found guilty of this crime can face incarceration for as many as 15 years and be responsible to pay fines of as much as $25,000. Each time someone is found guilty of another offense of criminal sexual assault, the penalties go up.
There are some criminal sexual assault charges that can result in more significant penalties. Any aggravated sexual assault charge can send a person to prison for as many as 30 years with fines of $25,000, but they can face life in prison if found guilty of additional aggravated sexual assault crimes.
Registering as a Sex Offender
Sexual assault convictions in Illinois also require registration as a sexual offender for life. That means a person convicted of sexual assault in Illinois must register with local law enforcement as a sex offender. This applies wherever they move.
Personal information is also published for the public to see. Because of this, registration as a sex offender can impact where you work and live.
Consent is at the center of each of these sexual assault crimes, which is why it’s so important to understand what consent means. Hopefully, the changes made into law surrounding consent for sex crimes can make things clearer for every party involved, from those accused of committing the acts to those who are victims.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.