The exponential increase in technological advances over the past few decades has created new avenues for human interaction which were previously unheard of. The advent of this new technology, however, has also resulted in new ways for individuals to commit sex offenses targeted toward minors. In response to these potential dangers, the state of Illinois has enacted legislation intended to protect children from the harmful effects that can result from these new technological creations.
If you have been charged with grooming in Illinois, Dolci & Weiland's team of criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to providing the help you need to defend against your charge.
A Statutory Overview of Grooming
As opposed to other sex crimes in Illinois, grooming is a crime which is based on the use of technology to commit a sex offense. In Illinois, the statute which prohibits the act of grooming is 720 ILCS 5/11-25. According to this law:
A person commits grooming when he or she knowingly uses a computer on-line service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child, a child's guardian, or another person believed by the person to be a child or a child's guardian, to commit any sex offense as defined in Section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act, to distribute photographs depicting the sex organs of a child, or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or another person believed by the person to be a child."
Based on the language of the statute, grooming is somewhat of an all-encompassing crime, prohibiting a person from using technology to solicit a child to engage in any sex offense defined in the Sex Offender Registration Act. Examples of sex offenses included in this section of the Act include:
- Child pornography;
- Custodial sexual misconduct;
- Soliciting or promoting a juvenile prostitute;
- Predatory criminal sexual assault of a child;
- Traveling to meet a minor for a sexual act; and
- Sexual exploitation of a child.
The statute also prohibits using technology to engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child, resulting in countless scenarios in which a person can be arrested and charged with grooming from activities conducted online. For example:
- If a person posts on an online website such as Craigslist with the intent of finding a person under the age of 18 who is willing to engage in a sexual act, the ad would be considered grooming, as the person is using an online service to solicit a child to engage in unlawful sexual conduct.
- Text messages to a minor requesting sexual activity or describing fictional sexual encounters would be considered grooming for purposes of this statute.
- Sending a private message to a minor through social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat can be lead to a charge of grooming if the message seeks illicit sexual conduct such as nude photographs from the minor.
It is important to note that a person can face a charge of grooming even if no sexual misconduct occurs between the individual and the minor; the criminal act for purposes of the grooming statute is the use of a computer to solicit a sexual act rather than the sexual act itself.
Possible Penalties for Conviction of Grooming
In Illinois, grooming is considered a Class 4 felony. While this is the lowest category of a felony in terms of severity, conviction of a Class 4 felony still carries severe penalties, including a minimum incarceration of one year. Those charged with grooming can face a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years, along with a monetary fine of up to $25,000.
If a person engages in grooming and proceeds to travel to meet a child as a result of this grooming, he or she can face even more severe penalties. Traveling to meet a child for purposes of engaging in a sex offense or engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a child is a separate offense prohibited by 720 ILCS 5/11-26, which prohibits a person from traveling any distance within, to, or from Illinois "for the purpose of engaging in any sex offense as defined in Section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act, or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child" after using a computer on-line service for such a purpose. As opposed to grooming, traveling to meet a child for unlawful sexual purposes is a Class 3 felony, and is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Placement on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry
In Illinois, the repercussions of a grooming conviction don't cease at the end of your prison sentence--rather, the state requires you to register with the state's Sex Offender Registry pursuant to the state's Sex Offender Registration Act.
Registration on the Sex Offender Registry can pollute every aspect of a person's life, from the ability to find a job or place to live to the social repercussions that accompany being listed on the registry. In many aspects, registration as a sex offender is more damaging to a person's way of life than a prison sentence--an individual who is a registered sex offender must report his or her identity, location, workplace, and a number of other identifying information online for the public to access. A person on the Sex Offender Registry also loses his or her right to visit public parks and school grounds, and can only visit children unsupervised under very specific circumstances.
Facing a Charge of Grooming in Illinois? We're Here to Help
If you have been charged with grooming following an arrest in Illinois, it's critical to seek representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney sooner rather than later. A conviction for grooming can have a devastating effect on your life, and defending against the charge takes a significant amount of time and legal expertise. Dolci & Weiland's legal team is dedicated to equipping our clients with the legal representation they deserve to defend against their criminal charge. To speak with a member of our team about your situation, fill out an online case evaluation form or contact the office closest to you today--for our downtown Chicago office, call (312) 238-9007, or for our DuPage location, call (630) 261-9098.