In Illinois, people who engage in consensual sexual activity with children under the age of 18 can be convicted of statutory rape (also called sexual abuse or sexual assault).
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws and Penalties.
People who engage in engage in sexual contact with other people of any age without their consent may face charges for sex crimes or assault. For more information on these crimes in Illinois, see Illinois Sexual Battery Laws,Assault and Battery Laws in Illinois, and Illinois Aggravated Assault & Battery Laws. Sexual activity with children is also made criminal under child enticement laws (Child Enticement Laws in Illinois).
Under Illinois’s laws, a defendant commits the crime of aggravated criminal sexual abuse by engaging in sexual conduct with:
- a child under 13 years old when the defendant is over age 17
- a child under nine years old when the defendant is under age 17, or
- a child over the age of 13, but under 17 years old, when the defendant is more than five years older than the victim.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-1.60.)
The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception
Named after the lovers in Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions protect youngsters who engage in sexual contact with people close to their own age from serious criminal charges.
In Illinois, sexual abuse is punished less severely when:
- the victim is over the age of nine, but under 17 years old, and the defendant is under the age of 17, or
- the victim is over the age of 13, but under 17 years old, and the defendant is less than five years older.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-1.50.)
In Illinois, a person commits the more serious crime of sexual assault by sexually penetrating:
- a child over age 13 but under age 18 when the defendant is over age 17 and in a position of trust or supervision over the child, or
- a child under the age of 13.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/11-1.20, 5/11-1.40.)
Asking a child to engage in sexual activity or arranging to meet a child without the permission of the child’s parents can result in child enticement charges.
For more information on this crime, see Child Enticement Laws in Illinois.
There are some important defenses to consider in statutory rape cases.
Mistake as to the victim’s age
In many states, it is never a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant believed the victim to be of age. However, Illinois law provides a limited defense in some circumstances.
It is a defense to a charge of criminal sexual abuse that the defendant believed a child between the ages of 13 and 16 to be 17 years old or older. It is also a defense to a charge of criminal sexual abuse that a defendant under the age of 17 believed a child to be over the age 17. In both situations, the defendant must have a good reason to believe the child is over the age of 17.
If, for example, the defendant knew that the child was in middle school, the defendant would probably not be able to show that he or she reasonably believed the child to be over 17.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-1.70.)
In many states, a person cannot be convicted of statutory rape of their spouse, but marriage provides no defense in Illinois.
For more information on spousal rape and the historic marital rape exemption, see Illinois Marital Rape Laws.
Aggravated sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony, punishable by three to seven years in prison.
If the “Romeo and Juliet” exception applies, sexual abuse is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, up to two years of probation, and a fine of up to $2,500.
Sexual assault against a child under the age of 13 is a Class X felony, punishable by six to 30 years’ imprisonment. Otherwise, sexual assault is a Class 1 felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison.
In addition to a term of imprisonment, felonies are also punishable by a fine of up to $25,000.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/11-1.20, 5/11-1.40, 5/11-1.50, 5/11-1.60, 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-25, 5/5-4.5-30, 5/5-4.5-35, 5/5-4.5-55.)
Sex Offender Registration
Under Illinois’s laws, people who are convicted of sexual assault or sexual abuse are required to register as sex offenders.
(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 150/2, 150/3.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance
If you are charged with sexual assault or sexual abuse as a result of consensual sexual activity with someone underage, you should contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain the legal process to you and help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.