In December 2018, a 19-year-old man from East St. Louis was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a 13-year-old child.
Now, that sounds really bad – and it is – but what exactly does “aggravated criminal sexual abuse” mean? What does someone have to do to be convicted of this sex crime?
How serious are the consequences?
In this post, we’re going to dive into the nuts and bolts of this law, focusing on what acts can potentially lead to someone being charged with the crime.
How Illinois Defines Criminal Sexual Abuse
To better understand aggravated criminal sex abuse, it is best to first define criminal sexual abuse as described in the Illinois criminal code.
The law (720 ILCS 5/11-1.50) states that one is guilty of criminal sexual abuse if the individual commits an act of sexual conduct:
- Using a threat of force or actual force.
- On a victim who doesn’t understand the nature of the sexual act.
- On a victim who isn’t able to give knowing consent.
- While being under 17 years of age, where the victim of the sexual conduct or penetration is at least nine years old but less than 17 years old.
- While being no more than five years older than the victim, where the victim of the sexual conduct or penetration is at least 13 years old but less than 17 years old.
Criminal sexual abuse, as described in 1 and 2 above, can be charged as a class 2 or class 4 felony based on the sex crime history of the accused.
Criminal sexual abuse as described in 3 and 4 above is considered a class A misdemeanor.
The term sexual conduct in this context refers to:
- intentional touching or fondling by either the accused or the victim
- directly or through clothing
- of the breast, anus, or sex organs of either the accused or the victim
- or any body part of a child who’s under 13 years old
- or the transfer/transmission of semen upon any part of the body (be it clothed or unclothed) of the victim
- for sexual arousal or gratification for either the accused or the victim
How can this crime become aggravated?
How Illinois Defines Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
The law (720 ILCS 5/11-1.60) describes aggravated criminal sexual abuse as criminal sexual abuse (as described above) with aggravating factors that occur during commission of the crime or as part of the process of committing the crime.
Aggravating factors for criminal sexual abuse include:
- Displaying, threatening to use, or actually using a dangerous weapon
- Displaying, threatening to use, or actually using an object that has been fashioned in a manner that leads the victim to believe that the object is a dangerous object
- Causing bodily harm or injury to the victim
- The victim is physically disabled
- The victim has severe or profound intellectual disability
- The victim is 60 years old or older
- Threatening or endangering the victim’s life
- Committing criminal sexual abuse while committing or attempting another felony
- Giving a controlled substance (by injection, ingestion, inhalation, transfer of possession, or any other means) to the victim without their consent
- The victim is not older than 18 years and is a family member
- The accused is at least 17 years of age, and he/she commits the act on a victim who’s not older than 13 years of age
- The accused is at least 17 years of age or older, and he/she commits the act on a victim who is at least 13 years old but less than 17 years old while using force or threat of force
- The accused is less than 17 years of age, and he/she commits the act on a victim who is less than nine years old
- The accused is less than 17 years of age, and he/she commits the act on a victim who’s at least nine years old but less than 17 years old while using force or threat of force
- The defendant’s age exceeds that of the victim by five or more years, and he/she commits the act on a victim who is at least 13 years old but less than 17 years old
- The age of the accused is at least 18 years, and he/she holds a position of authority, supervision or trust in relation to the victim who is at least 13 years old but less than 18 years old
When the above aggravating circumstances are present, a criminal sexual abuse charge can be upgraded to aggravated criminal sexual abuse. If this happens, it triggers severe sentencing possibilities, because the charge now becomes a Class 2 felony – or even a Class X felony.
Knowing the specifics of the law can both prevent you from violating it in the first place and in putting together your defense if your attorney can find a way to show that you did not act in one of the specific ways laid out in the statute.
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.