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Failure to Report Sexual Abuse of a Child

Failure to report sexual abuse of a child is a violation of 720 ILCS 5/11-9/1B. This crime is a serious charge, and a conviction can affect you for the rest of your life. It is punishable by fines, time in jail or prison, and a future requirement to register as a sex offender. If you are accused of failing to report sexual abuse of a child, speak to an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney right away. 

Statutory Elements of Failure to Report Sexual Abuse of a Child

A person commits failure to report sexual abuse of a child if the defendant personally observes conduct he or she knows to be sexual abuse, the defendant is over age 18 at the time he or she observes the abuse, and the defendant fails to report the abuse to law enforcement. A child is defined in the statute as a person under age 13.

Failure to Report Sexual Abuse of a Child Penalties

Failure to report sexual abuse of a child is a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and is a class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense.

A class a misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A class 4 felony is punishable by one to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Being convicted of a felony also comes with losing your voting rights, rights to vote, and your eligibility for some state benefits.

In some cases, you may be able to avoid serving time in jail or prison by plea bargaining or being sentenced by a court to alternative sentencing such as probation, a suspended sentence, or work release.

Probation involves reporting to a probation officer and following strict requirements such as abstaining from drugs and alcohol, paying supervision fees, and allowing your probation officer to visit you at work or home. 

A suspended sentence allows the court to impose a sentence at a later time if you do not comply with the requirements of your suspended sentence or commit a similar offense during the time your suspended sentence is imposed.

Work release means that you must serve some time in a facility but will be released at certain times to go to work. It is also known as periodic imprisonment.

Registration as a Sex Offender

A person who has been convicted of failure to report the sexual offense of a child may be required to register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration can have a serious impact on your life. You can face the loss of your career, future state benefits, and even the loss of your housing, even if you do not serve time in jail or prison.

You will only be required to register as a sex offender if convicted of a sex crime and ordered to register as part of your sentencing. 

Potential Defenses

To prove any crime, the prosecution must prove each and every element of the crime charged. If the state fails to prove its case, you must be found not guilty.

If you have been charged with failure to report sexual abuse of a child, you may have an affirmative defense if you tried to report the abuse, if the abuse cannot be proven, or if you feared bodily harm, disfigurement or death would occur if you reported the abuse.

Some situations may not fit the crime exactly, but you should still speak to an attorney if you believe that you could be charged based on a similar fact pattern. If you have been accused of a crime, you should speak to an attorney before you are even charged. In some cases, an attorney can prevent charges from being filed.

If you are a mandated reporter, you have a duty to report suspected abuse whether or not you actually observed it occurring. Examples of mandatory reporters include teachers, social workers, counselors, doctors, and other medical providers. 

Timely Reporting of Abuse

A person may not be prosecuted of failure to report sexual abuse of a child if they made reasonable efforts to report the crime to a child abuse hotline, local child protection agency, law enforcement, medical personnel or any other mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is a person who is required by law to disclose reports of a child or an endangered adult. 

The offense of failure to report sexual abuse of a child is not intended to punish any person who observes an act of abuse and assists with the prosecution of the person who committed the abuse. If you are unsure about whether or not this defense is available to you, speak to an attorney right away. 

Lack of Proof

The state must prove that a person accused of failing to report sexual abuse of a child was over 18 at the time the abuse was witnessed and that the defendant had personal knowledge of the abuse. 

A person may not be charged with failure to report sexual abuse of a child until the person who is accused of abuse such as sexual assault or rape of a minor is charged with that offense. The statute does not require that the person who committed abuse to be convicted before another person can be charged with failure to report sexual abuse of a child. 

Affirmative Defense of Fear of Bodily Harm or Death

It is an affirmative defense to the crime of failure to report sexual abuse of a child that the defendant had a reasonable apprehension that timely reporting of the abuse would result in the imminent infliction of death, severe bodily injury, disfigurement, or permanent disability to the defendant or another person because of retaliation for reporting the abuse.

Whether or not this defense is available will depend on the facts of the situation. Since this defense is an affirmative defense, the defendant must proffer evidence to support this defense. Evidence of specific threats by a person who committed an abuse of a child may support a defense of fear of reporting due to threats of bodily harm, death, or disfigurement. 

Contact an Experienced Illinois Defense Attorney

Have you been accused of failing to report sexual abuse of a child? Contact an attorney right away. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland may be able to prevent you from even being charged with a crime. Call our office at (630) 261-9098 or (312) 238-2007 or fill out our online form