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New Law Ends Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault

Posted on in Criminal Law

New Law Ends Statute of Limitations on Sexual AssaultIllinois has amended its criminal code in order to remove the statute of limitations on prosecutors filing sexual assault charges. The law previously required that prosecutors commence sexual assault charges within 10 years of the alleged offense. Now, the law simply states that sexual assault charges may be commenced at any time. Advocates for the new law argue that sexual assault victims may have personal reasons why they wait years to tell authorities about their assault. Illinois made a similar law change in 2017 for sexual assault cases involving minors. Those accused of committing sexual assault should understand that this new law does not change the prosecution’s burden to prove the crime.

Definition and Defenses

Illinois defines criminal sexual assault as any non-consensual sexual contact or penetration with a victim. If the party does not actively rebuke the sexual contact, they may still be unable to consent if they are incapacitated, inebriated, underage, mentally disabled, or facing the threat of violence. A first-time conviction for sexual assault is a class 1 felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison. Defendants can use several arguments to contest the charge:

  • The sexual assault did not occur or the defendant was not involved;
  • The alleged victim’s testimony is inaccurate or unreliable;
  • The sexual contact was consensual; or
  • The defendant has or had a mental condition that makes them not responsible for their actions.

DNA evidence of sexual intercourse can strengthen the prosecution’s case but may not be the deciding factor. The believability of each side’s story and testimony from witnesses will help a court determine whether it is likely that a sexual assault occurred.

Impact of the New Law

Without a statute of limitations, civil rights advocates fear an increase in sexual assault accusations based on decades-old evidence. Prosecutors will likely pursue an old sexual assault case only if there is compelling evidence of the offense. Evidence in these cases can weaken over time because:

  • It is less likely that there is physical evidence of the assault;
  • Memories of the alleged incident fade and become less reliable; and
  • It is more difficult to find witnesses who remember what happened before and after the incident.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

It remains to be seen whether the new law will cause an increase in sexual assault cases when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. A sexual assault charge can damage a defendant’s reputation, whether they are guilty or not. A McHenry County criminal defense lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can make sure you receive a fair trial. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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