Is there any Defense to Statutory Rape in Illinois?
Sexually based offenses are a sensitive and contentious category of crimes. Statutory rape is a criminal act that is based more on a technicality rather than reality. In many jurisdictions statutory rape is a strict liability crime, which means that no intent is required nor defense allowed as to mistaken belief of age. Simply doing the act with a minor below the age of consent is enough to be found guilty. Any sexually based offense against a minor has dire consequences, including imprisonment, fines, registration on a sex offender registry that is public knowledge, and restrictions on where you can live and work.
The age of consent in Illinois is 17. This means that until the age of 17, the law does not recognize a person’s ability to make the decision to engage in sexual activity, therefore doing so before 17 is not consensual in spite of that minors actual actions. With reality being that teenagers often engage in sexual activity amongst themselves, the law has some nuances that alleviate liability under certain circumstances.
Statutory Rape Law
Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/11-1.50 outlines these nuances. According to this statute, a person is guilty of criminal sexual abuse, a Class A misdemeanor, if the sexual act is between children ages 9 to 16. Here, mistake of age is a valid defense. Also a Class A misdemeanor is the charge of criminal sexual abuse against a minor between the age of 13 and 16 if the other person is within 5 years age difference of the alleged victim. Mistake of age is also a defense to this crime.
Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/11-1.60 outlines aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The crime becomes aggravated criminal sexual abuse, which is a Class 2 felony, where someone over the age of consent (17) engages in sexual activity with a child under the age of 13. Mistake of age is NOT a defense to this crime. Where the alleged victim is between the age of 13 and 16 and there is an age difference of more than 5 years between the two engaging in sexual activity, the crime is also aggravated sexual abuse, but mistake of age is a valid defense if the it was reasonable to believe the minor was 17 or older.
There are different classifications of sexually based offenses in Illinois, including criminal sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, aggravated sexual assault, or predatory criminal sexual assault.
Aggravated crimes of this nature are felony crimes that can carry a punishment of 3-7 years in prison or 6-30 years, depending on the aggravating factors. Criminal sexual abuse, which is the most common charge in statutory rape cases, carries a possible penalty of up to one year in jail. There are fines associated with the different classified crimes as well as other rehabilitation remedies as appropriate in different cases.
In general, the law reflects the notion that the greater the age difference between the two engaged in sexual activity, the more severe the punishment. Dating is not a crime, however sexual activity with a minor lacking the legal ability to consent to sexual activity is. Keep in mind that the minor’s actual consent is not taken into consideration under the law. Consent is not a valid defense, even if its true.
Given the harsh stance of the law on this matter, it is important to secure the representation of a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney should you or someone you know face these very serious charges.