Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

dmitry-ratushny-64773-copy-300x199Unfortunately, Chicago has acquired a reputation for child trafficking and is one of the crisis points recognized in the national strategy. Some of the people involved are supposed to be intimate partners who end up turning on the victims and forcing them to engage in indecent employment for little or no compensation. The practice is sometimes fueled by an illicit drug and sex work industry. Grooming is a very important step in getting someone to give up his or her rights, and that is where children are particularly vulnerable. They lack a sense of judgement and the perpetrators tend to look for those who are on the margins of society. Runaway kids are especially susceptible to this type of crime and the social service agencies in Chicago have attempted to do some preventative work.

In previous times, the law was insensitive to the fact that the victims may be engaging in illegal activity through no fault or volition of their own. That is why it was important to focus instead on the pimps who stand on the wayside in order to capture the illegally-acquired largesse from the trade. There are instances in which the victim is offered support whilst the perpetrator faces the full weight of a criminal prosecution. The reality is that many victims are so traumatized and frightened that they end up not raising a complaint in situations in which their cooperation is of the utmost importance.

A Comprehensive Strategy

ben-white-194220-copy-300x200At 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

benjamin-voros-160962-300x200One of the current and most insidious forms of harassment is cyber bullying. It is now recognized as a serious crime in Chicago and prosecutors are highly motivated to go for those that continue doing it under the auspices of instrument number 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5. The problem with such cases is the degree of difficulty in actually proving that everything happened as the victim described. Institutions such as schools have come up with bespoke policies that are designed to manage the risks. Some local ordinances demand such measures as a prerequisite to being licensed.

Some defense attorneys have expressed concern that the zeal to prosecute may lead to a violation of the defendant’s civil liberties. What was once accepted as normal conflict between and amongst teenagers is now a crime that can land someone in jail. Others point out that the resultant criminal record is an overly excessive punishment for the crime. On the other hand, it is noted that cyber bullying can lead to serious consequences for the victim including self-harm and even suicide on some occasions.

Key Ingredients of the Crime

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200Revenge porn is a crime that is gaining prominence in the age of social media. The law in Chicago took some time to catch up with the reality that some victims were being exposed to serious danger. By 2015, the state legislature had decided to write a law that set out the parameters for an effective prosecution. The leading instrument is 720 ILCS 5/11-46. At the moment revenge porn is considered to be a felony offense. In actuality, Chicago is in the minority when it comes to jurisdictions that have finally started criminalizing this type of behavior. Illinois is noted as the state with the strictest laws in this category. The crux of the offense is sharing nude or compromising images and videos of a person without his or her consent. One must have the unequivocal consent of a person in intimate images before those images can be shared.

It is entirely possible that images which are not extremely explicit can be considered to be part of a revenge porn offense. The charge can stick even if the person had originally consented to the recording of the image but was then unaware that the image was going to be distributed. Defense lawyers have argued that the definition is too wide and gives the court way too much discretion in determining what constitutes revenge porn. Chicago has different from other states in important ways as follows:

  • The intention to cause harm is not necessary for the charge to stick. All that is required is that the images or videos were distributed. Malicious intent can be an aggravating factor but its absence does not remove the charge.

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200The internet has not only opened up new avenues of communication, but has also created an entire category of crimes that require bespoke responses from the legislature. It is from that perspective that Chicago has come up with an internet solicitation legal framework which captures cyber sex crimes (720 ILCS 5/11-6.6 for enticement), among other things. On the other hand, the rules as they exist have left the door open for vigilantes and ingénues to entice otherwise ordinary citizens into compromising situations. The web sting has become an effective tool for police to target suspected pedophiles and other types of online offenders. More recently the phenomenon of revenge porn and unsolicited sexting has plagued legislatures across the globe. For the defense attorney, entrapment might be one of the critical issues that needs to be examined.

How the Law is Designed and Implemented

For a person to fall within the ambit of the law, they must knowingly engage in acts that amount to criminality, but the lines are blurred when undercover agents effectively encourage predisposed people to engage in illegal acts. At other times the law is the only way of being able to capture those sophisticated offenders who have a secretive network of contacts that are able to access some of the most offensive material that is currently available on the internet. Typically the offender is so unsympathetic that the public is unable to pay any attention to the civil liberties issues that may have been raised during his or her arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing. Ignorance and apathy remain key characteristics of the type of offender that engages with the internet in this way (see 720 ILCS 5/11-6 for indecent solicitation and online sexual solicitation rules). Some may consider it relatively harmless to surf certain pages while others are simply unaware that they are breaking specific laws in Chicago.

y9c55ie0fs0-joel-herzogControversy has always surrounded the disclosure aspects of the sex offender registration program in Chicago. To some this is nothing more than a charter for vigilantes to attack those who have already served their time. To others 730 ILCS 152/115 represents a much needed public protection mechanism in an age in which sex offenders are getting more and more egregious in their crimes. In any case the law mandates that the State Police Department maintains a sex offender database which is readily accessible on the internet. Placement on the list is restricted to certain types of offenses. Crimes against children are high up on the agenda when it comes to the registration and disclosure process.

Confronting the Constitutional Implications of the Unpalatable

From one perspective, both 730 ILCS 150/2(B) and 730 ILCS 150/2(C) are tantamount to giving vigilantes a heads-up on which people and homes to attack. Sex offenders are already a vulnerable segment of convicted felons since they face being ostracized within and outside of prison. On the other hand, the public feels that they have a right to know about a category of offending that is highly susceptible to recidivism. The criteria for addition to the list is rather harsh on offenders and includes anyone who has been convicted of commission or attempted commission of a sex offense. Even those that are not guilty by reason of insanity are included. More controversially, the provisions for inclusion cover those who are subject to a finding that is not an acquittal at a hearing for an alleged commission or attempted commission of the offense.

Baseball_capThe Chicago Tribune reports that the Naperville police are offering a $1,000 reward for information about the motorist who exposed himself to a 15-year-old girl on July 15 near Prairie and Charles Avenues. Apparently the suspect, a white male in his mid-40’s to early-50’s, drove past the girl as she was riding her bike down the street, stopped a short distance in front of her, and emerged from his vehicle wearing only a baseball cap. The police note that the man covered his genitals and did not say anything as the girl biked past him. While the girl was not physically harmed, the man will still likely face a public indecency charge if the police are able to find him.

Public Indecency in Illinois

Public indecency, referred to as indecent exposure in some states, is a criminal offense in Illinois. While some people view flashing as a harmless act, exposing yourself under some circumstances can land you in a lot of legal trouble. Under Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/11-30 any person who is 17-years-old or older commits the crime of public indecency if he or she engages in either of the following acts in a public place:

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While the First Amendment protects the right of adults to watch and produce pornography, this right is not without limitations. For example, child pornography is not protected under the First Amendment and is always illegal. Child pornography is any visual depiction of a minor, aka a person under 18 years old, engaging in a sexual activity. In recent years the federal government has become more and more focused on prosecuting those who have allegedly produced, distributed, or viewed child pornography.

One of the most recent child pornography cases in Illinois involves a Yorkville man who was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for a child pornography conviction and for violating the Sex Offender Registration Act, reports MyInforms.com. As the man had been convicted of child pornography related crimes three times before, the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office conducted a compliance check in December 2015 to confirm that the Yorkville man was in compliance with the Sex Offender Registration Act. MyInforms.com notes that via this compliance check the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force discovered that approximately 100 images depicting child pornography had been downloaded to the man’s personal computer. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators found that the man was illegally in possession of images showing children younger than 13 years old engaged in sexual acts. The man was charged with five counts of possessing child pornography depicting a child less than 13 years, which is a Class 1 felony.

The Sex Offender Registration Act

Baseball Stadium Seats
According to the Chicago Tribune, a Pittsburgh Pirates infielder who was in town to play the Chicago Cubs on June 17 has been accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman in Chicago. The sexual assault allegation is currently being investigated by police, but the baseball player has not yet been charged with a crime. According to the police, the Chicago woman made contact with the infielder via a dating app and the two agreed to meet at his hotel room at approximately 10 p.m. The woman alleges that that he served her one alcoholic drink that caused her to black out roughly 15 minutes later, and that he sexually assaulted her while she drifted in and out of consciousness. The alleged victim had a rape kit done two days later and filed a complaint with the police 10 days after the alleged sexual assault took place. While this woman took action quickly to have a rape kit done and file a police report, it is important to know that after a sexual assault occurs there is a timeframe within which rape kits must be done and sexual assault charges must be filed in order to be effective.

Rape Kits

A ‘rape kit’, also referred to as a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK), is a sexual assault forensic exam kit that is used to collect DNA evidence from a victim’s body, clothing, and other personal belongings after a crime is committed. Rape kits are used to help sexual assault victims preserve possible DNA evidence in case they decide to report that they were attacked. During a sexual assault forensic exam the survivor will generally be examined from head-to-toe, evidence will be collected, and follow up care will be recommended. According to Cleveland.com, rape kits can usually recover testable evidence within 96 hours of an assault. Therefore, the fact that the alleged victim in the sexual assault case outlined above had a rape kit conducted two days after she went to the baseball player’s hotel room should not have prevented DNA evidence from being collected.

file0002022362803One in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, according to a recent study by the Association of American Universities. Despite the alarming prevalence of rape on campuses, many universities remain complacent or unresponsive in reacting to reports of rape. The aggressive White House initiatives and campaigns, led by a task force formed in 2014, have transformed the way colleges and universities respond to allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as the level of awareness among college students about rape and the culture of rape.

Ending sexual violence on campuses across the nation has been one of the Obama Administration’s most passionate policy initiatives since 2011. The Department of Education and Vice President Biden published a comprehensive guideline for universities to help them understand their legal obligations under federal law. In January 2014, the administration established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. In April of that year, the Task Force launched a public awareness and education campaign called “It’s On Us.” to further advance and galvanize efforts across the nation to prevent sexual assault. The campaign has sought “to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.” See White House Press Release on “It’s On Us.”

Since the launch of the campaign, more than 344,400 people have taken the White House pledge, and 530 schools in 48 states currently have active It’s On Us chapters. Reports of campus sexual assault have surged in the last few years, which legal experts attributed to increased awareness and knowledge of the issue.