Illinois makes it illegal for a person to have consensual sexual activity with a minor younger than 17, with a few exceptions (see below). Anyone who engages in such unlawful conduct can face charges for criminal sexual abuse, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or aggravated or predatory criminal sexual assault.
Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. The age of consent can vary among states, and some states differentiate between consensual sex between minors who are close in age (for example, two teenagers of the same age), as opposed to sex between a minor and a much older adult. Keep in mind that engaging in any sexual activity by force or without the other person's consent can result in more serious charges and penalties, no matter the other person's age.
In Illinois, the age of consent is 17. Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a child younger than 17 can face charges for statutory rape or a similar crime. For these age-based offenses, it's immaterial whether the child consented to the activity or not. The child's age is the important fact, as it determines whether that person can legally consent to sexual activities.
Statutory rape is prosecuted under Illinois's laws on criminal sexual abuse, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and aggravated or predatory criminal sexual assault. Penalties depend on the ages of the defendant and victim and the sexual act that occurred—sexual conduct or penetration.
Sexual conduct occurs when the offender, for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal, does any of the following:
Sexual penetration includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, including penetration by a body part or object.
Criminal sexual abuse includes sexual conduct or sexual penetration between:
Criminal sexual abuse constitutes a Class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of less than one year's incarceration and a $75 to $2,500 fine.
A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse by engaging in sexual conduct when:
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse also occurs when the offender commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a child 13 to 16 and the defendant is at least 5 years older than the victim.
A conviction for this class 2 felony subjects a guilty defendant to three to seven years in prison and a $75 to $25,000 fine.
A person is guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault if they are younger than 17 and commit an act of sexual penetration with a child younger than 9. Aggravated criminal sexual assault constitutes a class X felony. A guilty defendant faces 6 to 60 years' imprisonment and a $75 to $25,000 fine,
Predatory criminal sexual assault occurs when a person 17 or older has sexual contact or penetration with a child younger than 13. Such an offense constitutes a class X felony, with penalties of 6 to 60 years' imprisonment and a $75 to $25,000 fine.
In many states, "Romeo-and-Juliet" exceptions—named for Shakespeare's teenage lovers—protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sexual conduct with others close to their own age (such as a 14-year-old and 15-year-old). But this is not the case in Illinois.
Although Illinois does not explicitly state an exception for close-in-age relationships, its courts have been known to dole out smaller fines and reduced jail time for those who might ordinarily fall within the Romeo-and-Juliet exceptions. However, these individuals still face the same penalties as other sex crime offenders and can even be required to register as sex offenders.
Defendants charged with statutory rape crimes in Illinois have several potential defenses available to them. At the same time, the law prohibits or limits the use of certain defenses.
Defendants charged with a statutory rape crime have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur."
Unlike most states, Illinois does recognize a mistake-of-age defense for statutory rape crimes in some circumstances. It is a defense to a charge of criminal sexual abuse that the defendant believed a child age 13 to 16 was actually 17 or older. It's also a defense to a charge of criminal sexual abuse if a defendant younger than 17 believed a child to be 17 or older. In both situations, the defendant must have had a good reason to believe the minor was 17 or older.
In many states, a person cannot be convicted of statutory rape of their spouse, but marriage provides no such defense in Illinois.
Illinois's Sex Offender Registration Act requires adult defendants and juveniles convicted of sex crimes to register as sex offenders for a minimum of 10 years, depending on the nature of the offense and the criminal history of the defendant. This includes all the sex crimes listed above. Failure to comply with registration requirements can result in a class 3 felony charge, subjecting a guilty defendant to two to five years in prison.
If you're facing charges for a statutory rape offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution's case against you and develop any defenses that might apply to the unique circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can also advise you on how the law will apply to your set of facts.
Victims of sex-related offenses can find a list of resources on our Victim Resources page. Among the resources listed is RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/11-0.1, -1.30, -1.40, -1.50, -1.60, -1.70; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-35, -40, -50, -55; 150/2, 150/3 (2022).)
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