Saturday, July 30, 2022

WHAT IS THE OFFENSE OF GROOMING IN ILLINOIS?

When it comes to the offense of “grooming” a child, Illinois law seems to take a fairly broad approach. It is best to steer clear of anything that remotely smacks of sexual exploitation.

For example, in People v. Hubbell, the defendant sent a photo of his bare buttocks to a 16-year-old child with the message, “Now it’s your turn LOL,” and that he would like to “get with” her. He also asked her to keep the message secret. The defendant argued that he was only soliciting a picture of her buttocks which are not sex organs, and thus, the evidence was not sufficient to convict him. The court disagreed.

Under 720 ILCS 5/11-25, grooming is defined as trying to use or using an on-line, internet or local bulletin board service or any other device with electronic data storage or transmission to solicit, lure or entice a child or their guardian into committing any unlawful sexual conduct including distributing photographs depicting the child’s sex organs.

The court reasoned that the grooming statute contemplates a broad set of circumstances. Grooming is viewed as a way to facilitate the sexual abuse of children. An abuser’s conduct intends to “foster trust and remove defenses over time through a pattern of seduction and preparation, resulting in the child being willing and compliant to the defendant’s sexual abuse.” A judge or jury could properly find that “sending an inappropriate photo of something other than a sex organ was, if not a direct solicitation for a photograph of the child’s sex organs, at least a first step in a process that the defendant hoped would lead the child to send a photograph of his or her sex organs.”

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most crimes, the state must prove you guilty of all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case. Can the state prove you were the person soliciting? If so, can your statements be understood as “soliciting, luring or enticing” the child. Was the conduct you allegedly solicited truly sexual? Even if the evidence is overwhelming against you, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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