After multiple court cases involving sexual violence have sparked national outrage, the penalties and treatment of sexual violence victims (as well as offenders) has become a hot-button topic of discussion in recent months.
Many of these discussions focus specifically on sexual assaults on college campuses. Statistics say that 1 in 4 women will experience some form of sexual violence while attending higher education, but typically 90% of these cases are not reported to law enforcement.
A number of states have responded to this discussion by introducing and passing laws that will give more rights to victims of sexual violence, as well as enforcing more harsh sentences on offenders. Illinois has made its own response in the form of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, which went into effect as law on August 1.
This law gives victims more knowledge and more rights while reporting a sexual assault case. Schools must now allow alleged victims the option to report sexual violence anonymously, electronically, or confidentially, as well as providing them with a written explanation of their rights and options moving forward with pressing charges. Confidential advisors must also be available to help alleged victims through their next steps. Finally, schools will also have more responsibilities in reporting their efforts yearly to the Attorney General’s Office.
How This Law Affects Your Case
This law encourages more alleged victims to step forward in a private manner. But if victims can report sexual violence anonymously, how are alleged offenders supposed to build a defense for their case?
And while it is important step to provide alleged victims with a written statement of their rights and allow them to speak with confidential advisors, what about the rights of the accused? Just like alleged victims, alleged offenders have rights and a need to understand how to protect themselves. One of those rights is the right to legal counsel.
Another thing to consider while looking at the law is the attitude around sexual assault on college campuses. The law understands that changing attitudes around sexual violence and assault on campuses will help victims.
Currently, the national spotlight on light sentences, however, has created an attitude shaming and wanting to get tough on alleged offenders. Judges may feel pressured to issue a harsh sentence simply to avoid becoming the subject of national outrage.
Penalties for Sexual Assault
The sentencing guidelines for sexual assault and other crimes of sexual violence are already very harsh in the state of Illinois. If you are convicted of criminal sexual assault, you face the penalties of a Class 1 felony, including 4-15 years in prison. A second conviction, or a conviction of aggravated criminal sexual assault, is a Class X felony, which threatens 30-60 years in prison.
For many sex crimes, you will also have to register as a sex offender upon leaving jail or leaving the courtroom. This registry is public, and can have a huge negative affect your search for jobs, housing, and higher education.
As we mentioned earlier in this post, you have the right to legal counsel after being accused of sexual violence. In fact, it is highly encouraged to seek the counsel of a Chicago sex crimes lawyer with a track record of success and unparalleled knowledge of Illinois’s sexual violence laws. He or she will provide you with the best chance of staying out of prison and getting a positive outcome.
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.