One of the most commonly charged sex crimes in Chicago is criminal sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is often confused with sexual assault, which is generally a more serious offense. It is important to understand that sexual abuse is a very specific crime. A conviction for sexual abuse can have very real consequences.
If you have been arrested for sexual abuse, call Chicago sexual abuse attorney Gus Kostopoulos. Gus is a former prosecutor and has over 18 years experience handling all criminal matters. Our attorneys will aggressively fight to limit the potential consequences of an arrest. Contact our Chicago office today to learn more about how we may be able to help you. We offer a free consultation and are available 24/7 to take your call.
Illinois Sexual Abuse Laws
In Chicago, it can be a crime to engage in sexual conduct with another person when certain circumstances exist. Pursuant to 720 ILCs 5/11-1.5(a), it is a crime to engage in sexual conduct when the victim is either (1) subject to force or the threat of force or (2) unable to give knowing consent.
When you are charged with sexual abuse, the prosecution must prove that you are guilty of each essential element of the crime. Generally speaking, you can only be convicted of sexual abuse if the prosecutor handling your case can prove that you engaged in sexual conduct and:
- You used force or the threat of force; or
- Your victim was unable or unwilling to consent.
It is important to understand what each of these elements actually is.
The main difference between the crimes of sexual abuse and sexual assault is the type of sexual behavior involved. Sexual abuse requires an act of sexual conduct, while sexual assault requires an act of sexual penetration.
Sexual conduct is essentially intentional contact with another person’s private areas for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. Private areas can include the penis, vagina, groin, inner thigh, buttocks, and female breast. Contact can be made directly or through clothing.
Sexual conduct does not require penetration. Once penetration has been achieved the act will be considered to be sexual assault.
Force or Threat of Force
In Illinois, you will be considered to have used force or the threat of force if you:
- Use force or violence on the victim or another person when they can reasonably believe that you have the ability to carry out the threat;
- Use your size or strength to overcome the victim; or
- Physically restrain or confine the victim.
Whether you used force or the threat of force is a question of fact that will ultimately be determined by a judge or jury. The victim’s perception of the act is very important. Force will generally be inferred if you use a weapon or are considerably bigger/stronger than the victim.
Victim Unable or Unwilling to Consent
Consent is defined as a “freely given agreement” to the sexual act taking place. If force or the threat of force is used, a victim’s lack of verbal or physical resistance or their submission to the act will not be considered consensual.
Sexual Abuse When the Victim is a Minor
It can also be a crime to engage in sexual acts with a minor. Under Illinois law, there are two different ways you can be charged with sexual abuse when the victim is a minor.
720 ILCS 5/11-1.5(b) makes it a crime of sexual abuse for a person under the age of 17 to:
- Engage in sexual conduct or sexual penetration;
- With a victim who is between the ages of 9 and 17.
Basically, it is a crime under 5/11-1.5(b) to engage in any kind of forceful or unwanted sexual behavior with a minor when you are also a minor.
720 ILCS 5/11-1.5(c) makes it a crime of sexual abuse to:
- Engage in sexual conduct or sexual penetration;
- With a victim who is between the ages of 13 and 17;
- When the perpetrator is less than 5 years older than the victim.
In simpler terms, it is a crime under 5/11-1.5(c) to engage in any kind of forceful or unwanted sexual behavior with a minor when the age difference is less than 5 years. So, it would be a crime of sexual abuse under 5-11/1/5(c) for a 23 year old to engage in sexual conduct or sexual penetration with a 17-year-old victim.
The penalties associated with this type of sexual abuse are less severe than those for other types of sexual abuse.
Aggravated Sexual Abuse in Illinois
The crime of sexual abuse can be aggravated under certain circumstances. When a crime is aggravated it generally means it is more serious. As a result, aggravated charges are subject to harsher criminal penalties. The crime of sexual assault will be aggravated under 720 ILCS 5/11-1.6 if:
- You display, threaten to use, or actually use a deadly weapon;
- The victim suffers bodily harm;
- The victim is over the age of 60;
- The victim suffers from a mental or physical disability;
- You endanger the victim’s life;
- You commit the sexual abuse in the course of another felony;
- You administer a controlled substance without the victim’s consent; or
- You hold a position of power or authority over the victim.
Aggravated sexual abuse can also be charged when the victim:
- Is under the age of 9; or
- Is between the ages of 13 and 17 when the age difference is greater than 5 years.
Penalties for Sexual Abuse in Illinois
Sexual abuse is a serious crime and a conviction can have in life-changing consequences. The penalties for sexual abuse depend on the specific part of the statute you are accused of violating.
Sexual Abuse: A first time conviction for sexual abuse under 720 ILCS 5/11-1.5(a) is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison. A subsequent sexual abuse conviction will be a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3-7 years in prison.
Sexual Abuse/Minor: A conviction for sexual abuse in violation of 720 ILCS 5/11-1.5(b) or 720 ILCS 5/11-1.5(c) is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Aggravated Sexual Abuse: Aggravated sexual abuse is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3-7 years in prison.
Convictions for sexual abuse may also trigger requirements to register with the state of Illinois as a sex offender. Registered sex offenders are subject to strict rules and regulations. Sex offenders face limitations on where they may live, where they can work, and where they can travel. It is important to fight accusations of sexual abuse to avoid the potential non-criminal consequences of sex offender registration.
Defenses to Accusation of Sexual Abuse
Just because you are arrested for sexual abuse does not automatically mean that you will be charged or convicted. Defenses that you may be able to argue against sexual abuse in Illinois include:
- Lack of intent;
- Mistaken identity; and
- False accusation.
Get Help From an Experienced Chicago Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you have been charged with sexual abuse, call Chicago sex abuse attorney Gus Kostopoulos. It is important to remain silent while you are waiting to speak with your lawyer. As the saying goes, anything you say can and will be used against you. This is true even if you think you are saying something irrelevant or unimportant. You will reduce the possibility of negative consequences if you let your criminal defense attorney speak on your behalf.
Contact our Chicago office today to schedule your free consultation. We will review your case, determine potential defenses, and answer your questions. The sooner you call us the sooner we can begin to fight the sexual abuse charges you face.