Does Illinois Have Romeo and Juliet Laws? Not Really
Romeo and Juliet may be a famous tragedy, but it’s often a tragedy that still plays out in the Illinois courts for star-crossed lovers whose relationships are considered against the law.
Statutory rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, rape, and unlawful sexual intercourse are just a few of the crimes that can be committed by unsuspecting teens in relationships. In many places, Romeo and Juliet laws are in place to help reduce the consequences for teens in situations where they are close in age but one is still considered a legal adult. In Illinois, however, these laws are limited.
It’s vital to understand what the laws in Illinois say about teens in consensual sexual relationships so that you don’t become the star of your own tragic story.
Age of Consent in Illinois
In the state of Illinois, 17 years old is considered the age of consent. That means that anyone under the age of 17 is legally unable to consent to sex even if the act is voluntary – or even if they initiate it. Having sex with someone under the age of 17 is considered a sex crime.
Does Illinois Have Statutory Rape Laws?
Though most people may casually refer to having sex with someone under the age of consent as statutory rape, there are actually a few crimes in Illinois that can be prosecuted if someone has sex with someone under the age of consent. These crimes are:
Criminal Sexual Abuse
This is a law referring to sexual conduct which includes acts such as fondling or touching for the purpose of sexual gratification.
This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in prison and fines of as much as $2,500.
Criminal Sexual Assault
This crime occurs when there is sexual penetration, which is considered sexual contact between the sex organs or anus of two people or between an object, mouth, or anus of another. This includes acts such as anal sex, fellatio, and cunnilingus.
This is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in a penitentiary and as much as $25,000 in fines.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
This occurs when there is criminal sexual abuse through sexual conduct that uses the threat of force or force or with a victim who is known to lack the capacity to give consent. It is can also be perpetrated if the person over 17 is in a position of authority over the victim.
This is a Class 2 felony, which can result in up to seven years behind bars and fines of as much as $25,000.
Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault
This crime occurs in the same way as aggravated criminal sexual assault, except that the victims are often younger – under 13 – and a firearm is used in the commission of the crime. It can also occur if the victim sustains great bodily injury that is life-threatening or results in permanent disability.
Being found guilty of this crime can land you in prison for up to 60 years since it’s considered a Class X felony, the most serious, in Illinois.
What About Romeo and Juliet Laws?
In some cases, a person over 17 who has sexual contact or sex with someone under 17 can face one of the above charges. You hear frightening stories of someone who was 19, for example, dating someone who was 16 and being charged with criminal sexual abuse that required registration as a sex offender for 10 years. Or stories of those who are 17 having relationships with 15-year-olds that sour – then they are charged with a crime for sex they considered consensual.
In Illinois, there is a limited exception for criminal sexual abuse under Romeo and Juliet standards. The conduct itself is still illegal, but reduced time in prison and smaller fines can result.
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. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.