A charge of criminal sexual abuse is not one that should be taken lightly; as with all sex crimes, conviction of such a charge can have serious consequences on both a criminal and a social level. At Dolci & Weiland, our legal team believes that everyone who faces a criminal charge deserves quality representation and a chance to defend against their charges. Following an arrest for criminal sexual abuse, it's critical to understand your charge and know your rights.
An Overview of a Criminal Sexual Abuse Charge
Criminal sexual abuse is prohibited in Illinois by 720 ILCS 5/11-1.50. The statute states that a person commits criminal sexual abuse if the person
- commits an act of sexual conduct by the use of force or threat of force, or
- commits an act of sexual conduct and knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or is unable to give knowing consent.
Thus, the two key elements in the statute are force and lack of understanding or consent. If either of these two elements is present, a person can be charged with criminal sexual assault. As such, barring a few exceptions, if a person commits a sexual act without force and the other party gives consent and understands the actions that occur, criminal sexual assault is not a viable charge.
Exceptions Which Can Lead to a Criminal Sexual Abuse Charge
While force and lack of consent are necessary elements for a charge of criminal sexual abuse in most cases, two exceptions exist in which a person may be charged with the crime even if force is not used and the other person consents to the act.
A person may be convicted of criminal sexual abuse if
- the person is under the age of 17 at the time he or she commits the act, and
- the person commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who is 9 to 17 years of age.
In addition, a person can be charged with criminal sexual abuse if
- the other party is 9 to 17 years of age, and
- the person committing an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct is less than 5 years older than the victim.
Possible Penalties Following Conviction of Criminal Sexual Abuse
A person who is convicted of criminal sexual abuse that falls into one of the above-listed exceptions to the general rule can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction of such a charge can lead to
- a fine of up to $2,500,
- a jail sentence of up to one year, and
- a probationary period following release from jail.
The stakes are higher for those who do not fall into one of the special categories mentioned above; a first-time offender of the criminal sexual abuse statute faces a Class 4 felony charge, which can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.
Those who have been charged with a sex crime before face even more severe penalties for a second or subsequent conviction of criminal sexual abuse; second and subsequent offenses are Class 2 felony charges. Conviction of these charges places a person at risk of receiving
- a fine of up to $25,000, and
- a prison sentence between three and seven years.
For purposes of conviction, a prior offense doesn't have to be a conviction of criminal sexual abuse; the charge will be considered a subsequent offense if the person has ever been convicted of a similar sex crime.
Registration as a Sex Offender
In addition to the criminal penalties that you may face with a charge of criminal sexual abuse in Illinois, conviction of such a crime will also require you to be placed on the sex offender registry pursuant to the state's Sex Offender Registration Act.
Registering as a sex offender can cripple a person's life, as the responsibilities and prohibitions that follow registration can touch on every facet of a person's life. If you are placed on the sex offender registry, you will be restricted as to where you can live, what jobs you can obtain, and when you can be around children. Your freedom is further restricted by being banned from entering a school or public park.
Potential Defenses to a Charge of Criminal Sexual Abuse
Just because you are facing a charge of criminal sexual assault does not mean that you are guaranteed to be convicted of the charge; in the United States you are--as the famous quote goes--"innocent until proven guilty." An attorney may be able to introduce a defense that can lessen the penalties that you face for your charge. In some cases, your charges may be dropped altogether following the assertion of a defense. Common defenses to criminal sexual abuse charges include:
- Consent: if lack of consent was deemed to be the factor which led to your charge, your attorney may be able to introduce evidence proving that the other party to the sexual act did, in fact, consent to the action.
- Innocence: sometimes, a person is charged with a sex crime simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you were one of the only people in an area following an act of criminal sexual abuse, or if you look similar to the person who actually committed the crime, you may have been charged with the crime although you are completely innocent.
As with any crime, it's imperative to enlist the help of a seasoned attorney who has experience defending against this type of charge.
Facing a Charge of Criminal Sexual Abuse? Call Us Today
If you have recently been charged with criminal sexual abuse in the state of Illinois, the time to call a criminal defense attorney is now. Obtaining the help of an attorney who knows the ins and outs of defending sex crimes is critical to the successful defense of a sex charge.
The team of criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are dedicated to providing quality representation to those who face criminal charges and are committed to defend against those who were wrongfully charged. To speak to a member of our legal team about your charge, fill out an online case evaluation form or call the office closest to you today--for our DuPage location, call (630) 261-9098, or for our Chicago office, call (312) 238-9007.