Non-violent, consensual sexual relations between teenagers in Illinois can potentially lead to a criminal conviction resulting in 10 years on Illinois' sex offender registry.
Earlier this year, the legislature in Illinois voted down a bill - referred to as "Romeo and Juliet" legislation - that would have allowed sex offenders to petition to have their names and mug shots removed from the sex offender registry if their conviction involved sexual relations with someone at least 14-years-old and the offender was not more than 4 years older than the sexual partner.
Supporters of the bill felt that many teenagers shouldn't be punished beyond a criminal conviction for a mistake made so young, especially a mistake that was entirely consensual. Proponents noted the difficulties some teenagers face when obtaining a job or going to college after being place on the sex offender registry.
However, opponents of the bill voiced that it would be more productive to simply reconsider the age of sexual consent in Illinois, not the law aimed at protecting minors from sexual abuse. Ultimately, most legislators sided with this view, as the bill failed in the Illinois House by a vote of 36-73.
In Illinois, the age of consent for sexual relations is currently 17. Sexual relations - even consensual sexual relations - with someone who does not meet this threshold age are illegal. Those who are accused may be found guilty of one or more of the multitude of Illinois sex-related crimes.
Sex Crimes Involving Minors in Illinois
Illinois has multiple laws in place to protect minors from sexual exploitation. These laws range from those aimed at from protecting minors from being solicited for sex to being photographed or filmed indecently.
Moreover, there are laws in Illinois that cover the obvious sex-related crimes against vulnerable minors. Some of these laws include:
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault - when a person under the age of 17 has sex with a minor under the age of 9, or uses force or threat of force to have sex with a minor at least 9 years old, but under the age of 13
- Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child - when a person 17-years-old or older has sex with a minor under the age of 13
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse - when a person 17-years-old or older commits an act of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 13; or uses force or threat of force to commit an act of sexual conduct with a minor at least 13 years old, but under the age of 17
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse - when a person under the age of 17 commits an act of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 9; or uses force or threat of force to commit an act of sexual conduct with a minor at least 9 years old, but under the age of 17
The reasons that these particular laws are necessary are quite clear, as they aim to protect the most vulnerable children in society from sexual abuse. However, not all sex-related crimes are as clear-cut - such as the crimes commonly referred to as "statutory rape."
Illinois Statutory Rape
When most people use the phrase "statutory rape," they are usually not referring to the crimes committed on the very young or vulnerable minors referenced above, but are instead referencing situations in which high-school aged children have consensual sexual relations with someone at or over the age of 17.
The statutory rape laws in Illinois revolve around the presumption that anyone under the age of 17 cannot consent to sexual acts. Because of this, many teenagers find themselves in situations in which they are near in age to each other, but still technically violating Illinois law.
For example, an 18-year-old high school senior having sexual relations with a 16-year-old high school junior could be found guilty of criminal sexual abuse. This is because under Illinois law when a person commits a sexual act with someone under the age of 17, but over the age of 13, and the person is less than 5 years older than the minor, he or she is guilty of criminal sexual abuse - even if both participants believed the sex was consensual. In Illinois, the older partner could also be required to register as sex offender.
Moreover, under Illinois law, when a person under 17 years of age commits a sexual act with another who is under the age of 17, but at least 9-years-old, they are also guilty of criminal sexual abuse. Because of this, situations may arise in which two minors who engaged in sexual relations could report the other for sexual abuse. In fact, an Illinois court stated in In Re T.W. that when "two minors engage in a consensual sexual act, the statute may validly be applied to prosecute both minors on the basis that each is the victim of the other." Ultimately, it is possible that either minor may have to register as a sex offender, even though the sex was considered consensual.
Need for Competent Advice
Although nothing contained here-in should be considered legal advice, it does illustrate the complexities of sex-related crimes in Illinois - particularly those involving minors. There are numerous other sex-related crimes prosecuted in Illinois in addition to the ones mentioned here. The stigma of being charged with any of them can instantly ruin a person's life. If you are facing sexual assault charges, contact an experienced attorney in your area today to be advised of your rights and possible defenses.