Illinois Eliminates The Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Crimes

Illinois has now eliminated the statute of limitations for commencing a criminal prosecution in certain sex offenses involving a minor (under the age of 18 years at the time of the offense).

Previously, the law in Illinois stated that a minor victim of sexual assault (under the age of 18 at the time of the offense) must file criminal charges twenty years after attaining the age of 18. Which previously meant that charges must be filed before the “victim’s” 38th birthday. This is no longer the case in Illinois.

The new law (SB189) passed by both the Illinois Senate and Illinois House, and approved by the Governor now eliminates the Statute of Limitations in its criminal prosecutions for child sex cases.

SB189 provides in pertinent part:

720 ILCS 5/3-6(j)(1) When the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the offense, a prosecution for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse may be commenced at any time when corroborating physical evidence is available or an individual who is required to report an alleged or suspected commission of any of these offenses under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act fails to do so.

So essentially, a prosecution for the above-named sex offenses in relation to minors can be filed at any time. Additionally, the new law eliminates the requirement that corroborating physical evidence be available. The new law also eliminates the requirement that an individual must fail to report any of these offenses under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

Note: The new law is not without its restrictions.

The primary restriction of the bill is that the law is not “retroactive.” What not being retroactive means is that a new law does not apply to incidents prior to the new law’s enactment, August 11, 2017. An example to best illustrate the issue of retroactively in this context is as follows:

  •  If an individual was 38 years old (20 years after attaining one’s 18th birthday after the alleged sexual abuse) prior to the enactment date of the new law, the old law still applies. Basically, if the individual turned 38 years old on August 10, 2017, the twenty-year requirement to commence a criminal prosecution under the old law had expired and still applies. The new law would not apply since it was passed on August 11, 2017, thus, it was not in effect at the time the statute of limitations under the old law expired.

The Change in the Statute of Limitations Applies to Criminal Cases Only, Not Civil Cases

It should also be noted that this bill ONLY APPLIES to the commencement of criminal prosecutions for the above-mentioned types of sex offenses. The bill does not apply to filing a civil case. Criminal and Civil laws differ in purpose:

  • The purpose of a criminal law is to protect society from criminal wrongdoing and to punish the wrongdoer.
  • The purpose of a civil law is to give a person who was sexually abused the right to seek monetary compensation from the alleged perpetrator.

The current Statute of Limitations for filing a civil cause of action in the civil courts is 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday (i.e. the person’s 38th birthday).

However, A bill (HB 3629) has recently been proposed to eliminate the 20-year statute of limitations requirement in its entirety for civil cases. The objective of the new bill would give victims the opportunity to file a civil case at ANY TIME without any time limitations for filing. It currently is awaiting House approval before proceeding to the Senate.


If you or someone you know is a victim of a sex crime when they were a minor, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. An experienced attorney will determine whether the statute of limitations either civilly or criminally allows or eliminates an action.

If you or someone you know has been charged or is under investigation for a sex crime, it is imperative you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. It is imperative to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well versed in not only the nuances and complexities of sex crimes, but the nuances and complexities posed when the issue of an extended statute of limitations arises.

Contact Wigell Criminal Defense to speak to an experienced attorney regarding these types of charges.

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