In this technological age, it has become easier than ever to communicate with individuals over the internet. Through email or social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, communication is just a click away. The advent of this technology also allows accused sex offenders to meet up with underaged individuals. If you have been charged with traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sexual purpose in the State of Illinois, the team of criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are standing by to help you defend against your charge.
An Overview of 720 ILCS 5/11-26
Traveling to meet a child for improper sexual conduct is prohibited by Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/11-26. The law states that a person commits the offense of traveling to meet a child when he or she:
"travels any distance either within this State, to this State, or from this State by any means, attempts to do so, or causes another to do so or attempt to do so for the purpose of engaging in any sex offense . . . or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child . . . ."
Another element of the statute involves the use of technology to meet with the child; specifically, the statute provides that a person commits an offense if he or she travels to meet a child "after using a computer online 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 to attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice" a child to perform unlawful sexual conduct.
The statute defines a "child" as any person under the age of 17. It is important to note that, per the statute, a person need not follow through with the unlawful sexual conduct in order to face such a charge; a mere attempt to do so exposes a person to the possibility of conviction of the charge.
Penalties for Traveling to Meet a Child
If you have been arrested and charged with traveling to meet a child for purposes of committing unlawful sexual conduct with the minor, you face a Class 3 felony charge. Conviction of such a charge carries substantial penalties; if found guilty, you can face a prison sentence between two and five years, along with a fine of up to $25,000.
Registration on Illinois' Sex Offender Registry
If found guilty of traveling to meet a child, your punishment does not end after your prison sentence has been served; in addition to the criminal penalties that faced, a person convicted of such a charge must also register with the state's Sex Offender Registry pursuant to Illinois' Sex Offender Registration Act. Registration on Illinois' Sex Offender Registry requires that you provide a surprising amount of personal information to be made available online to anyone to view. Examples of information which must be turned over to the registry include:
- Your full name;
- Your date of birth;
- Your home address;
- A current photograph of yourself;
- Information regarding your prison sentence;
- Information regarding the crime for which you were convicted, including the age of both yourself and the victim at the time of the offense; and
- Whether you are deemed to be a sexual predator.
In many aspects, being made to register on the Sex Offender Registry is even worse of a punishment than the prison sentence served. The stigma that comes from being registered as a sex offender affects nearly every aspect of a person's life, from placing limits on where a person can live in relation to a school to hindering one's ability to find a job. The far-reaching repercussions of being made to register as a sex offender can make it much more difficult for a person to assimilate back into society after being released from prison.
Defenses to a Charge of Traveling to Meet a Child
Following a charge of traveling to meet a child, it's critical to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney to take on your charge. A well-versed attorney may be able to introduce a legal defense to your charge which could lessen the severity of the penalties that you face if you are convicted of the charge. Common defenses to a charge of traveling to meet a minor include:
- You reasonably believed that the person with whom you were communicating was over the age of 17;
- You did not intend to engage in unlawful sexual conduct or commit a sex offense when you traveled to meet the minor;
- The "child" for which you were accused of traveling to meet was not under the age of 17; and
- You were not the person who engaged in communications with the minor over the internet.
A successful legal defense, in some cases, can even result in a dismissal of your charges if the defense means that one of the key elements of the statute has not been met.
Charged with Traveling to Meet a Child? Contact Us for Help Today
If you have been charged with traveling to meet a minor to engage in a sex offense in the state of Illinois, the time to seek the assistance of an attorney is now. As with any sex offense, the social stigma that follows from being convicted of traveling to meet a child can affect all aspects of your life, and defending against such a charge should only be handled by a seasoned criminal defense attorney who has experience in defending against sex charges.
Make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can ensure the best chance at a positive outcome. Fill out an online case evaluation form or call the Dolci & Weiland office nearest to you today. For our DuPage location, contact (630) 261-9098, or for our downtown Chicago office, call (312) 238-9007.