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Governor Closes Loophole in Sexual Assault Law

Governor Pritzker recently signed a revision to an Illinois law that made it difficult for prosecutors to pursue charges against perpetrators of sex crimes against a victim who was voluntarily intoxicated. The bill will close a loophole under the law that made prosecutions more difficult when a victim was intoxicated by their own volition. The law as it was written required the perpetrator to cause the intoxication of the victim. The bill added new language to the statute that makes it easier for prosecutors to file charges against a perpetrator when the victim was drunk or high at the time. Nonetheless, the new law only makes room for victims who are unable to give consent at the time of the sexual contact. If the victim was “unconscious of the nature of the act” and the perpetrator “knew that they could not consent” then the sexual conduct is now actionable. 

What Happened?

The legislature took the matter up after a young victim was told by police that her experience did not qualify as rape or sexual assault under Illinois law. According to the victim, she was at a friend’s house partying when she was sexually assaulted by another individual. The police told her they would not investigate the charges because she had voluntarily become drunk when she was raped. When she asked the police what legal options she had at her disposal, they told her to not let it happen again and to move on. Instead, she lobbied politicians to close the loophole in the law and now police will be forced to investigate these matters. 

Better Resources for Survivors

In addition to closing the inebriation loophole, the new bill affords survivors of sexual assault access to state resources for a longer period of time. The Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act will allow survivors to access health care for a longer period of time and set standards for the quality of care victims receive. Victims will have access to a forensic sexual assault medical specialist to help capture the abuser as well as other trained medical professionals who provide counseling services to victims. Prior, victims only had 90 days to access these resources. They will now have 180 days. 

Potential Issues With the Law

This law does nothing that should not have been done years ago. However, attitudes toward sexual assault have changed drastically in the wake of #MeToo movement. It should be illegal for an individual to engage in sexual conduct with an individual who is passed out. However, what happens if the victim is blacked out but not passed out? This is where things can get legally complicated. The law is based on what the perpetrator knew at the time. So, if someone passes out during a sexual encounter, then what? What if the perpetrator is drunk too? There is plenty of room for concern that the law simply modernizes Illinois’ archaic approach to sexual assault.

Talk to a Chicago Sex Crimes Attorney Today

David Freidberg represents the interests of Chicago residents charged with various sex crimes. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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