In Illinois, the age of consent to engage in sexual conduct is 17. This applies to both heterosexual and homosexual acts for both boys and girls, men and women. When a person engages in sexual conduct with another person who is under the age of 17, the person has committed the crime of statutory rape.
A person commits statutory rape by having sex with a person who is under age, even if the under-age person consents. So, effectively, this means that a person under the age of 17 is incapable of consenting to sexual conduct with a partner of any age
It is important to note that in Illinois, if both parties to sexual conduct are below the age of consent, it is illegal for them to have sex, even if they are the same age. So, in Illinois, if two people who are both 16 years old engage in sexual conduct, they are both committing a crime. Each partner is at once a victim and an offender.
In Illinois, however, as a practical matter, if two people who are both below the age of consent engage in sexual conduct, their crime would be charged as criminal sexual abuse and not statutory rape. The crime of statutory rape is most often charged as criminal sexual abuse, a crime that is committed when:
- A person who is under 17 engages in sexual conduct with a person who is between the ages of 9 and 16; or
- A victim is between the ages of 13 and 16, and the alleged perpetrator is of an age that is within 5 years of the victim’s age.
In Illinois, the crime of criminal sexual abuse is a Class A misdemeanor. A person who is convicted of criminal sexual abuse can be punished by up to one year in a county jail. They can also be required to pay a fine of as much as $1,000 and/or ordered to complete a term of probation. If the parties are both between the ages of 13 and 17, their punishment for the crime of criminal sexual abuse would be a maximum of 1 year in the county jail.
However, if one of the parties in Illinois is more than 5 years older than the minor, the punishment for the older partner for the crime of statutory rape is 3 to 7 years in state prison.
If a person is in a “position of supervision” over a minor, the age of consent is 18 and not 17.
So, again, essentially, the law in Illinois says that it is impossible for anyone under the age of 17 to engage in sexual conduct legally. Sexual conduct is defined as “knowing touching or fondling….either directly or through clothes” of the “sex organs” of another person. Included within the definition of “sex organs” are a woman’s breasts.
If two teenagers, both age 16, agree to have sex, they could potentially both be charged with statutory rape of the other, although again, in Illinois, the crime is usually charged as misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse. Of course, someone other than the parties to the crime would have to have knowledge of the conduct and report it to the police.
Theoretically, however, both teens who mutually consent to “sexual conduct” could be charged. And conviction of the crime of criminal sexual abuse in Illinois comes with the requirement to register as a sex offender.
In Illinois, the crime of aggravated criminal sexual abuse occurs when:
- A person over the age of 17 engages in sexual conduct with a person between the ages of 9 and 16; or
- A victim is between 13 and 16, and the alleged perpetrator is not within 5 years of the victim’s age.
In Illinois the crime of aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony. If convicted, a person can face from 3 to 7 years in state prison and a fine of from $25 to as much as $25,000.
An additional crime in Illinois is that of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. A person commits this crime if they are 17 or older and engage in sexual conduct with a child under 13. Predatory criminal sexual assault of a child is a Class X felony, and a person convicted of it may may face from 6 to 60 years in state prison.
Note that there are also other less serious offenses that could be charged, including solicitation, grooming, and exploitation.
In many states, it is never a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the perpetrator believed the victim to be of age. However, Illinois law allows a limited defense in certain circumstances.
It is a defense to a charge of criminal sexual abuse that the perpetrator believed a child between the ages of 13 and 16 to be 17 years old or older. It is also a defense if a perpetrator under the age of 17 believed a child to be over the age 17. In both situations, the perpetrator must have had a good reason to believe the child was over the age of 17.
If, for example, the perpetrator knew that the child was a freshman in high school, they would probably not be able to show that they reasonably believed the child to be over 17. In claiming an affirmative defense, the accused person admits that they engaged in the prohibited sexual conduct, but claims that they did not knowingly or purposefully break the law.
Again, the mistake of age must be reasonably based on the person’s legitimate and honest reliance on information that would lead them to believe a victim was at least 17.
A mistake of age defense may be used when a person is charged with criminal sexual abuse or aggravated criminal sexual abuse if the basis for the charge is due to the 5 year difference in age. The mistake of age defense is not available if a person is charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, if they are 17 or older and engaged in sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 13.
Named after the young lovers in Shakespeare’s play, the “Romeo and Juliet” exception prevents the lodging of serious criminal charges against a youngster who engages in sexual contact with another youngster who is close to their own age.
In Illinois, there is only a limited “Romeo and Juliet” exception for criminal sexual abuse. The conduct is still illegal, but guilty parties are protected to the extent that they face the possibility of lower fines and reduced jail time. In some states, the Romeo and Juliet exception is a complete defense to a charge of statutory rape or other sex offense if the parties are under age but close in age, e.g. both 15 or 16. But that is not the case in Illinois.
In many states, a person cannot be convicted of the statutory rape of their spouse. In Illinois, however, marriage is not a defense. Additionally, under Illinois law, people convicted of criminal sexual abuse and aggravated criminal sexual abuse are required to register as sex offenders.
Seeking Legal Help
If you have been accused of statutory rape, criminal sexual abuse or other related criminal sex offenses, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Illinois immediately.
Your attorney can analyze the evidence and advise you of the best court to take in dealing with the charge.
If you have been convicted of any of these offenses in the past and are unsure how to register as a sex offender, you should also consult with a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. They can help you learn about your obligation to register and how to do it.