The Difference Between Criminal Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault
In Illinois, criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual assault are both felonies. There is a lot of discussion on the difference between the two during sentencing, however, because one is a much higher “level” felony, which generally means more time behind bars.
If you or someone you know is being charged with criminal sexual abuse or criminal
sexual assault, it’s imperative that you know the difference between the two, as well as their respective penalties and sentencing standards.
What Is Criminal Sexual Abuse?
Generally, criminal sexual abuse in Illinois means that the sexual activity stopped short of penetration (anal, vaginal, or oral), but did involve threats or forceful touching. It is also considered criminal sexual abuse if the defendant (the person being charged) is a minor who engages in any sort of sexual activity with another minor.
In Illinois, the general age “limits” in this scenario require that the defendant is under the age of 17, and engaging with 9 to 17-year-olds, or the defendant is five years older than the victim(s), who are 13 to 17 years old.
In the case of charged minors, the sex is generally consensual but found to be inappropriate by parents or concerned parties, and tends to result in a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for this charge include one year in jail and $2,500 in fines. In some cases, however, the minor can be given two years of probation (counseling, community service, and so on) in lieu of jail time. Sadly, the minor must still register as a sex offender for at least 10 years, which shows up in public registries and can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life.
In the case of adults, Criminal sexual abuse generally indicates forceful touching without penetration. There are two ways a person can be charged with criminal sexual abuse: “regular” criminal sexual abuse, which results in a Class 4 Felony, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse, which results in a Class 2 Felony. In the case of a Class 4 Felony, the defendant will be given one to six years in prison, and possibly a $25,000 fine. If they are a repeat offender, the years and fine increase.
If the defendant used a weapon, caused bodily harm, used drugs to coerce a person into sex, threatened the victim’s life, or acted against a senior or handicapped individual, he or she will be charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse. A Class 2 Felony, in that case, will result in three to 14 years in prison, and $25,000 in potential fines.
What Is Criminal Sexual Assault?
Criminal sexual assault involves sexual penetration by force, without consent, or with a person in the family or under the defendant’s supervision or guardianship. In Illinois, there are three tiers of sexual assault charges: criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and predatory criminal sexual assault. Criminal sexual assault will result in a Class 1 Felony, which means at least four to 15 years in jail. If they are a repeat offender, the accused will be charged with a Class X Felony, the worst charge next to first degree murder in the Illinois court system. That will earn the accused 6 to 30 years in prison with no right to probation.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault means that the defendant is accused of using a weapon or assaulting a senior or handicapped individual. In some cases, it can also mean that the victim was under the age of 8 and the accused was under 17 (but both consented), or the victim was 9 to 12 years old but force was used by a person under 17. This is a Class X Felony, and repeat offenders can spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Predatory criminal sexual assault charges are placed when the defendant is over the age of 17, and the victim is 12 years or younger. This results in a Class X Felony, and 6 to 30 years of incarceration. If the defendant used a weapon, injured the victim or caused life-threatening damage, or gave the victim a controlled substance before the assault, the defendant will get a Class X Felony and up to 60 years in prison. Repeat offenders spend their natural life in prison.
Clearly neither situation is ideal, and the defendant is going to have an uphill battle to fight if accused of either criminal sexual abuse or criminal sexual assault. The two defenses to be used in either case are often “denial of the act,” or “claiming consent.” To learn more about these defenses and whether or not they can be used in your situation, the best thing you can do is to get in touch with a knowledgeable sex crimes lawyer who has helped others just like you.
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.