Traveling to Meet a Minor
Americans may take for granted the freedom and ease of travel that they have within the United States. Thanks to the federal system of government, citizens of one state are free to travel with very few, if any, restrictions to another state in the country. This enables families to take vacations to other parts of the country and employees and contractors to travel from one state to another to complete work projects. Unfortunately, this freedom of travel also allows individuals to easily travel to different cities and areas of the country to take advantage of children or commit sexual crimes against others in communities where the individual and his or her reputation is not known.
In an effort to prevent Illinois residents from traveling to other states to commit unlawful sexual acts against children and to prevent others from performing such acts against children living in Illinois, the Illinois Legislature passed an act criminalizing “traveling to meet a minor.” Learn more about this offense and what you can do if you find yourself charged with this crime in Chicago or anywhere in Illinois.Elements of the Offense of Traveling to Meet a Minor
Traveling to meet a minor is a complex criminal offense. Before a defendant charged with this offense will be found guilty, the prosecution must prove several elements are true by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Several of these elements pertain to the defendant’s intent or motive, which may be difficult to prove. However, intent (as well as the other elements of any criminal offense) may be proven through circumstantial evidence. In other words, the prosecution does not need a “confession” or admission from the defendant in order to convict him or her of traveling to meet a minor: the prosecution is permitted to ask the jury to infer intent, motive, or any other element from the facts and circumstances of the case.
In defending yourself against charges of traveling to meet a minor, you and your criminal defense lawyer will need to carefully analyze the evidence the prosecution has available to it as well as any favorable evidence of which you may know. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg has successfully defended these type of charges for over 20 years. If the prosecution fails to prove each and every element of the crime of traveling to meet a minor beyond a reasonable doubt, then you will be acquitted of the charge. The elements of the offense (720 ILCS 5/11-26)of traveling to meet a minor include:
- “When he or she travels any distance”: the defendant must have traveled some distance, however slight, in order for him or her to be convicted of traveling to meet a minor. It would not be a violation of this statute if the victim or intended victim traveled to the defendant’s location. However, even a defendant who leaves his or her home and goes to the street corner or to a neighbor’s home will likely be found to have met this element.
- “Either within this State, to this State, or from this State”: there must be some connection with the State of Illinois, otherwise Illinois cannot exercise jurisdiction over the defendant. In order to have jurisdiction, the travel must have either been initiated in Illinois and ended in another State, been initiated in another state and terminated in Illinois, or been completed entirely within Illinois. A charge of traveling to meet a minor filed against a defendant in Illinois may be suspect if the travel began in one state, came through Illinois (where the defendant was intercepted), but the intended victim was located in another state.
- “By any means”: although this may seem like an inconsequential element, the prosecution must allege and prove that the travel was accomplished by some means. This can be by foot, by car, by rail, by plane, by ship – any means of conveyance or travel will satisfy this part of the statute. A complaint that simply says that the defendant traveled from Point A to Point B, without specifying that the travel was completed “by any means” or without specifying the means of travel, may be deficient.
- “Attempts to do so or causes another to do so or attempt to do so”: the crime of traveling to meet a minor punishes those defendants who either themselves attempt to complete travel to the location of the intended victim but are intercepted along the way and those defendants to help others do so. For example, a defendant could be charged with traveling to meet a minor if he or she arranges a meeting between a child and someone else and the other person attempts to meet the child.
- “For the purpose of engaging in any sex act …”: the purpose of the travel must be in order to complete or commit a sexual act defined in Section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act or an unlawful sexual act. This element can be difficult to prove, but the prosecution is permitted to prove this element by circumstantial evidence. Facebook messages or voicemails wherein the defendant indicates to the child or to another that he or she intends to commit an unlawful sexual act against the child when he or she meets him or her will satisfy this element, as would police discovering condoms, lubricants, or other sexual-related items in the defendant’s bags or car.
- “With a child or with another person believed … to be a child”: the intended victim does not necessarily need to be underage in order for the defendant to be found guilty. If the intended victim is in fact an adult, however, the prosecution must present evidence that establishes the defendant’s belief that he or she was traveling to meet a child. Text messages or other evidence in which the victim suggests he or she is underage can be used to satisfy this element.
- “After using a computer online service …”: the statute requires that the travel or attempted travel be performed after the defendant has used some electronic device (the definition in the statute is very broad) to lure, seduce, solicit, or entice a child or a child’s guardian – or attempt to do any of these acts – for the purpose of performing an unlawful sexual act on the child. Thus, the statute would not apply to an individual who travels to a different state from Illinois (or arrives in Illinois) and selects a child victim at random with whom the individual has had no prior contact with whom to commit an unlawful sexual act.
Traveling to meet a minor is a Class 3 felony in the State of Illinois. This means that a person who is convicted of traveling to meet a minor may face a term of incarceration in an Illinois prison for between two and five years. He or she may also face a fine of up to $25,000. There may be other collateral consequences of a conviction for traveling to meet a minor.
Illinois residents or those visiting Illinois who find themselves charged with traveling to meet a minor should take such a charge seriously and retain the services of an experienced Chicago and Illinois criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. can assist you in evaluating and analyzing the witnesses and evidence against you and formulating a defense strategy designed to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Contact David L. Freidberg today by calling (312) 560-7100. We are available 24/7 for your convenience.