When you hear about sexual assault cases on television, you may notice reporters using various terms for similar charges: “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse,” etc. Each state has different definitions and charges for sexual assault crimes. If you are charged with any sort of sex crime here in Illinois, it is crucial to know what you are up against, and how you can defend yourself.
Let’s look at the three tiers of criminal sexual assault in Illinois: criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
(There are also two types of criminal sexual abuse charges in Illinois that apply to cases where sexual penetration was not present.)
Criminal Sexual Assault
Criminal sexual assault is the most “basic” sexual assault charge in Illinois. Defendants can be convicted of criminal sexual assault if prosecutors can prove that sexual penetration occurred and one of the other elements were present:
- Force or the threat of force
- Knowledge that the victim did not understand the nature of sex or was not able to consent (they were unconscious, sleeping, intoxicated, etc.)
- The victim was under the age of 18 and the perpetrator and victim are family members
- The victim was between the ages of 13-18, the perpetrator was over the age of 17, and the perpetrator held a position of authority over the victim (teacher, law enforcement officer, coach, etc.)
In Illinois, criminal sexual assault is a Class 1 felony. Penalties include up to 15 years in prison unless the defendant has a previous sexual assault conviction on their record.
Subsequent sexual assault charges are a Class X felony. Penalties include up to 60 years in prison, but the sentence can be increased to life behind bars.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault
Aggravated criminal sexual assault occurs when “aggravating factors” are present in a sexual assault crime. In Illinois, “aggravating factors” for sex crimes include:
- The perpetrator used, threatened to use, or displayed a dangerous weapon, including firearms, during the act
- The perpetrator used, threatened to use, or displayed an object that the victim believed was a dangerous weapon
- The perpetrator was armed with a firearm
- Bodily harm
- Endangerment or threat to endanger the life of the victim or another person
- Another felony was committed or attempted during the act
- The victim was over the age of 60 or had a disability
- Controlled substances were administered to the victim (“date-rape” drugs, etc.)
Even if just one of these aggravated factors were present, the sexual assault charge is elevated to a Class X felony. Penalties include up to 30 years behind bars, but the sentence could be extended to life.
Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child
Two things make this charge different from other sexual assault charges. The first is the age of both the victim and the perpetrator. The second is that sexual penetration does not necessarily have to occur.
According to Illinois law, predatory criminal sexual assault can occur if there is “contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person and the part of the body of another for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal.”
If the victim is under the age of 13 and the perpetrator is over the age of 17 and this act occurs, the perpetrator could be charged with predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
This crime is a Class X felony. Penalties include up to 60 years in prison, but aggravating circumstances could increase the sentence to life.
Regardless of which type of criminal sexual assault charge you may be up against, there are defense strategies that may be able to help you fight charges. Talk to your lawyer about how you can reduce your sentence or get your charges dropped.
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.