Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes in Illinois

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Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes in Illinois

A statute of limitations refers to this time limit that a prosecutor or state’s attorney has to file criminal charges against an offender after a crime has been reported to the police. Statutes may vary by state or by types of criminal or civil actions.

In the summer of 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against minors. With this, Illinois joined 36 states and the federal government in removing the statute of limitations for these types of charges.

At first look, this law gives the impression that any case of sexual assault involving minor victims can be prosecuted at any time. But this modification to the statute of limitations can only extend the viability of a charge that was still viable at the time the change became effective.

Because of this, for every felony sexual assault case that is considered for charging more than three years after its occurrence, we must determine not only the current statute of limitations, but also whether the case was still viable when the current statute of limitations took effect. If the case is still prosecutable, it then is necessary to determine what the appropriate charge is based on the criminal statute that was in effect at the time the crime was committed.

There is a flow chart that can be used to determine if a case is viable or not. If the sexual crime occurred after July 1, 1984, and the victim was a minor (under 18) when the crime occurred:

  1. Was the victim under the age of 19 as of January 1, 2000 (born after January 1, 1981)?
    • If “no,” the case is not viable.
    • If “yes,” continue.
  2. Was the victim a family member to the perpetrator (“family member” being defined by 720 ILCS 5/12-12(c))?
    • If “yes,” the case is viable.
    • If “no,” continue.
  3. Was the victim born after January 1, 1981, and before August 15, 1981?1
    •  If “no,” the case is viable.
    • If “yes,” continue.
  4. Did the victim report the incident to law enforcement by age 21?
    • If “no,” the case is not viable.
    • If “yes,” the case is viable.

In addition to the questions of viability, if a charge had already existed and expired under the statute of limitations, no change to the statute can revive it. This has long been established law in the state of Illinois, and was also held up in the United States Supreme Court in Stogner v. California.

It is important that you consult with an attorney if you or a family member is under investigation for a sex offense that involves a minor or who at the time in question was a minor. We strongly encourage you to contact Richard Fenbert at Fenbert & Associates, LLC, so that he can assist you in navigating this process.