We’ve all heard the opening line to the hit television show, Law & Order: SVU. Sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous, and in Illinois, along with the rest of the country, those convicted of sex crimes will face severe punishments – along with harsh judgments from the public at large.
When it comes to these types of crimes, most people have preconceived notions and emotions regarding those accused, despite defendants being innocent until proven guilty. For this reason, individuals accused of alleged sex crimes should secure an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney as soon as possible who can start crafting an aggressive defense to get their charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped altogether. Without the help of a qualified lawyer to be your advocate in and out of the courtroom, you risk both your freedom and your good name.
Let’s take a look at some of the sexual offenses someone can be charged with in our state and then explore some common defenses to these charges.
Criminal sexual assault. This crime includes sexual penetration plus one of the following circumstances:
- Force or threat of force
- The victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or give knowing consent
- The victim is under 18 and the accused is a family member
- The victim is between 13 and 18 and the accused is at least 17 and holds a position of trust, authority, or supervision
The penalty for a first conviction is a Class 1 Felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 4-15 years in prison. A subsequent conviction is a Class X Felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 6-30 years in prison.
Aggravated criminal sexual assault. There are two ways to be charged with this crime.
- Someone commits criminal sexual assault with at least one aggravating factor:
- Dangerous weapon
- Bodily harm
- Threatening the life of the victim or another person
- Commission of another felony
- Victim is over 60 years old
- Victim is physically disabled
- The victim was given a controlled substance
- The accused had a gun
- The accused fired a gun
- The accused fired a gun that caused bodily harm or death
- Or there is sexual penetration plus one of the following circumstances:
- The victim is 8 or younger and the accused is under 17
- The victim is 9-12, the accused is under 17, and there was force or threat of force
- The victim is severely or profoundly mentally retarded and the accused is any age
A first conviction is a Class X Felony with a mandatory minimum of 6-30 years in prison with a possible extended term of 10, 15, 20, 25 years or natural life.
Predatory criminal sexual assault. There are two ways to be charged with this crime.
- Someone commits predatory criminal sexual assault if there is sexual penetration, the victim is 12 years or younger, and the accused is 17 years or older.
This is a Class X Felony punishable by 6-30 years in prison.
- Or there is sexual penetration plus these factors:
- The victim is 12 years or younger
- The accused is 17 years or older
- Carries a gun
- Discharges the gun
- Causes great bodily harm to the victim
- Gives the victim a controlled substance without their consent
This is a Class X Felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 6-60 years in prison with a possible extended term of 15, 20, 50, 50-60 years or natural life.
Sexual Assault Defenses
As mentioned above, being accused of any kind of sexual assault offense can be devastating. Along with lengthy prison sentences if convicted, the defendant will also have to register as a sex offender, which can affect all aspects of one’s life.
False allegations. If you have been falsely accused of sexual assault, a skilled lawyer will assess the alleged victim’s motivation for the accusation, which will be a large part of your defense.
- The accuser may lie about consensual sex in order to protect their own reputation and save face to family and friends.
- The accuser may make false allegations against a spouse to gain an advantage in family court with divorce or custody disputes.
- The accuser may also make false accusations for financial gains to extort money from the defendant.
Consent. This is an affirmative defense. The defendant is acknowledging that the behavior in question took place but that the supposed victim’s consent doesn’t make the behavior a crime. If the defendant can prove that the victim consented to the sexual act, it will be a solid defense against the accusations.
Misidentification. Perhaps the crime in question did occur but the victim has falsely identified who committed the crime. There are a number of reasons a victim might do this, but if you have a valid alibi or other evidence like DNA, it could help to prove that you were nowhere near the crime scene.
Regardless of the defense strategy, the prosecution has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is innocent unless proven otherwise. This is enough in many circumstances to make a sex offense charge beatable.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.