At the heart of the laws on statutory rape in Chicago is the definition of the age of consent. At the moment, the age of consent in this state is 17 years of age. At the federal level, the age of consent is defined as that minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally old enough to agree to participate in a sexual activity. That age is 16 at the federal level, so defending attorneys already need to be wary of conflicts in interpretation. The bottom line is that the state law takes precedence on this, so if you are in Chicago, 17 is the minimum acceptable age for consent to take place. It is important to note that even when explicit consent is provided by the victim, the fact that he or she does not make the minimum age means that he or she is not able to give legal consent.
A statutory rape charge is brought about based on the age of the victim (and, to an extent, that of the defendant) according to 720 ILCS 5/12-15. It is not really about whether the victims said yes, no, or maybe. It is about their age and whether they were allowed to make those judgements. There are other important provisions in the law that relate to the relationship between the defendant and the victim. If you are in a position of authority or trust (such as a family doctor, priest, boss, etc.), the age of consent in Chicago is raised to 18 years of age. The challenge for the defending attorney is to determine whether the defendant was really in a position of power, authority, or trust. This can be a significant aspect of the defense strategy.
Consequences of a Charge and Conviction
The state has not enacted a close-in-age exemption. That means that the defendant cannot argue that he or she is a teenager too and should be treated leniently. These “Romeo and Juliet Laws” were popular in the USA to deal with situations in which both the victim and defendant were below the age of consent. In Chicago, it is entirely possible for two individuals who are below the age of 17 to be prosecuted for statutory rape regardless of whether they were in a sexual relationship or not. Such a move is controversial for political reasons and specific prosecutions are rare, although the threat remains.
There is a sliding scale of age-related classifications. It is important to note that the law on statutory rape focuses on victims who are at least 13 years of age. One of the aggravating features is when the accused is more than five years older than the victim. That means that anyone that is above the age of consent is likely to face an aggravated crime if the victim is at the youngest end of the scale. This is a sliding scale such that a defendant who is 21 will face an aggravated charge even if the victim is 16 years or older.
Categorization of Charges
The prosecutor has a leeway of up to eight statutory sexual assault charges, and it is entirely possible to do multiple charges on a single sheet or incidence. The severity of the charge (felony or misdemeanor) is dependent upon the type of sexual activities and the ages of the people that are involved. The indecent solicitation of a child is a felony with various classes ranging from 1–4. Each class has a maximum term of imprisonment as follows:
- 1 (4–15 years);
- 2 (3–7 years);
- 3 (2–5 years);
- 4 (1–3 years).
The predatory assault of a child is a Class X felony, which can attract a term of imprisonment of 30–60 years. Criminal sexual abuse is a Class A misdemeanor that can attract up to one year in jail. Grooming is a Class 4 felony that attracts one to three years in prison. Permitting the sexual abuse of a child is a Class 1 felony that attracts between four and 15 years in prison. If you need help with this type of case, contact David Freidberg attorney at law now at (312) 560-7100.
(image courtesy of Ben White)