What is Sexual Assault?

In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Recent high profile cases involving Louis CK, Roger Ailes, and Kevin Spacey have cast the spotlight onto sexual violence. The viral #metoo movement let many people see just how pervasive this crime is in our society.

As Chicago sex crime attorneys, we want you to understand what sexual assault is.

Criminal Sexual Assault

In the state of Illinois, officially speaking, there are two necessary elements to convict someone of sexual assault. The first element is always the same. If someone sexually penetrates another, that satisfies one of the conditions. The second element can vary. At least one of the following needs to be true for the incident to break the law:

  • The perpetrator used force or threatened to use force
  • The violator knows that the victim does not understand the nature of the act, or is unable to give consent
  • The defendant is related to the victim, and the victim is under the age of 18
  • The accused is 17 or older, and maintains a position of authority or trust in relation to the victim, and the victim is between the ages of 13-18

Multiple elements may apply at the same time.

In Illinois, sexual assault is a Class 1 Felony. According to the law, and the guilty offender may be sentenced to 4-15 years in jail. In addition, criminals who commit sexual assault may pay up to $25,000 in fines.

If someone is convicted of sexual assault for a second time, then they may be charged with a Class X felony. Should someone be found guilty, a judge may be able to sentence that person to jail for 30-60 years.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

Aggravated sexual assault is also a Class X felony. In Illinois, sexual assault may be charged as aggravated sexual assault if certain aggravating factors are present including:

  • The person uses a dangerous weapon
  • The person threatens to use a weapon
  • The commits the sexual assault while they are committing another felony
  • The victim is 60 years old or older
  • The victim has a physical disability
  • The person injects or makes someone drink a controlled substance
  • The person has a gun

A conviction may mean that the defendant may spend 30-60 years in jail.

Penetration is necessary for the crime to be sexual assault. This means that crimes of a sexual nature that do not involve penetration usually fall under criminal sex abuse rather than assault. Criminal sex abuse is typically a Class 4 Felony, or a Class A Misdemeanor, depending on what the specific allegations.

Other Types of Sexual Assault

That refers to the legal definition of sexual assault. But people do not always use the legal definition when they are talking about this topic. Many consider other acts, such as groping, sexual harassment, child sex abuse, elder abuse, and other forms of unwanted sexual conduct to be sexual assault, although they are different and have their own laws and punishments.

Possible Defenses

There are a few defenses for sexual assault. The accused can assert that they had consent or maintain that the event never occurred, as well as other defenses.

Despite what many people see in movies, getting a case dismissed due to insanity is exceptionally difficult. A defendant attempting to plead not guilty by reason of insanity happens in fewer than 1% of cases, .85% to be exact, and only one in four of those are successful. Most of the time, it is not even a viable option.

Text messages or written communication may help prove that someone had consent. Keep in mind, however, that in Illinois consent can be withdrawn. Trying to prove or disprove consent usually devolves into a he-said-she-said scenario, and that can be a bit unpredictable.

Lastly, an accused person may be able to prove that the incident did not happen, that they did not do it, or other facts that illustrate that they could not have done it. This defense relies on facts relevant to the particular circumstances.

If you have been accused of sexual assault, it is a good idea to retain the services of legal counsel. They will be able to properly represent you and your situation, and help formulate a plan to increase your chances for success.  It has often been said that guilty people need a lawyer, but Innocent people really need a lawyer. The justice system makes mistakes, and overzealous prosecutors sometimes prosecute the innocent.

The experienced attorneys of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC are ready to fight for you today. Contact us now.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 26, 2023