Last year, Illinois eliminated the statutes of limitation for all felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children. The rationale was that victims of childhood sexual abuse can take many years to recover from and report the abuse, and that repealing the statutes of limitation would allow survivors the time needed to heal and seek justice.
Prior to this new law, Illinois’ statutes required that sexual offenses against children must be prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18. Illinois is the 37th state to repeal statutes of limitations for some or all sexual offenses against children.
The new law means that Illinois is likely to see an upswing in child molestation cases as survivors of offenses committed long ago step up to seek justice. This does not mean that more people will be charged with child molestation here, though.
Because child molestation is not a separate criminal charge. Rather, child sexual abuse is covered by a number of specific statutes.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse occurs when a person commits an act of sexual conduct using force or threats of force, or knowing that the victim is unable to understand the acts or give consent.
This can apply to child molestation under the following circumstances:
- The act is committed with a family member under 18.
- The defendant is 17 years of age or older, and the victim is under 13 years of age.
- The defendant is under 17 years of age, and the victim is under nine years of age.
- The victim is 13-17 years of age, and the defendant is at least five years older.
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is considered a Class 2 felony, and is punishable by 3-7 years’ imprisonment and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child
Predatory criminal sexul assault of a child focuses on victims under 13 years of age. This occurs when a person over 17 years of age commits any sexual act, including penetration or any other contact with a sex organ, for the purpose of his or her sexual gratification or that of the victim, and the victim is under 13.
Aggravating factors such as using firearms, causing the victim significant bodily harm, giving the victim a controlled substance, victimizing more than one child, or prior convictions lead to enhanced sentencing.
This offense is considered a Class X felony. Depending on the circumstances and presence of aggravating factors, it is punishable by six years to life in prison, as well as the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Criminal Sexual Assault
Criminal sexual assault covers the offense that was previously known as rape in Illinois. As it pertains to child molestation, criminal sexual assault includes the performance of sexual penetration of any kind:
- When the victim is a family member and is under 18 years of age.
- The defendant is 17 years of age or older, holds a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim, and the victim is between 13 and 17 years old.
For first-time offenders, criminal sexual assault is considered a Class 1 felony, and carries a prison term of 4-15 years and the requirement to register as a sex offender. For offenders with any prior record of sexual misconduct, criminal sexual assault is considered a Class X felony, which is punishable by 30-60 years’ imprisonment, and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
If You are Facing Child Molestation Charges in Illinois
Sex crimes committed against children are some of the most grievous offenses a person can commit. If convicted of child molestation charges, you face severe sentencing and the lifelong stigma of being a convicted sex offender.
If you are facing sex crime charges, retain the best available Chicago criminal defense attorney, who will work tirelessly to ensure the most favorable possible outcome for your case.
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 SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.