Illinois Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse perpetrated by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as a marriage or dating relationship, as a means of gaining or maintaining power or control over that person. In the state of Illinois, as in most states, domestic violence is a crime, and any person who hits, kicks, chokes, harasses, threatens or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member can face criminal charges for domestic battery in Illinois. If you have been charged with the crime of domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery in Illinois, it is critical that you consult a knowledgeable Illinois criminal defense attorney right away. An Illinois domestic violence conviction can carry severe criminal penalties that can change the course of your entire life and a skilled attorney who specializes in defending clients against domestic violence charges can provide invaluable legal guidance at every stage of your case while working to protect your rights.
Illinois Domestic Violence Law
Domestic violence is a broad term that applies to any violent act or physical abuse that occurs between family or household members. Under Illinois domestic violence law, a family or household member is defined as:
- A person you are married to or used to be married to,
- A family member related to you by blood (i.e. a parent or child),
- Someone who shares or used to share your home,
- Someone with whom you have a child in common,
- Someone you are dating or engaged to or used to date, or
- A disabled or elderly adult and his or her caregiver
There are a number of criminal offenses that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. When the alleged victim is a family or household member of the accused, the following acts may be considered domestic violence: physical abuse (hitting, pushing or kicking), sexual abuse (forced sexual contact), harassment (repeatedly calling, following or watching the person), or interfering with the person’s personal liberties (not allowing them to leave or forcing them to do something they don’t want to do).
In the state of Illinois, a domestic violence crime can be charged as either domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse. Illinois’ domestic battery law (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2) states that “A person commits domestic battery if he or she knowingly without legal justification by any means: (1) causes bodily harm to any family or household member; (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with any family or household member.” Aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3) is a more serious crime that occurs when “(a) A person who, in committing a domestic battery, knowingly causes great bodily harm, or permanent disability or disfigurement, [or when] (a-5) A person who, in committing a domestic battery, strangles another individual.”
Domestic Violence Orders of Protection
A domestic violence order of protection, also known as a restraining order, is a court order designed to protect alleged victims of domestic violence. If someone in your family or household petitions the court for an order of protection against you, the order may:
- Prohibit you from entering your shared residence
- Require you to attend counseling
- Order you to stay away from the petitioner and any other individuals protected by the order, possibly including your children
- Give the petitioner temporary custody of your children
- Require you to turn over certain personal property
- Require you to turn over any weapons to local law enforcement
- Require you to appear in court
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Illinois
Illinois law recognizes domestic violence as “a serious crime against the individual and society which produces family disharmony in thousands of Illinois families, promotes a pattern of escalating violence which frequently culminates in intra-family homicide, and creates an emotional atmosphere that is not conducive to healthy childhood development.” When physical abuse, acts of violence or threats of violence occur within a marriage, dating relationship or family unit in Illinois, the state may prosecute the person accused of committing the abusive, violent or threatening acts on a criminal charge of domestic violence.
In Illinois, the crime of domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2) is a Class A misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in jail, plus up to $2,500 in fines, probation and possible counseling. In some cases, a domestic battery offense that would normally be charged as a Class A misdemeanor may be elevated to:
- A Class 4 felony if the defendant has a prior conviction for violating a domestic violence order of protection or for any other violent crimes, such as first-degree murder, aggravated domestic battery, kidnapping, aggravated arson, aggravated discharge of a firearm, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
- A Class 4 felony if the defendant has one or two prior convictions for domestic battery.
- A Class 3 felony if the defendant has three prior convictions for domestic battery.
- A Class 2 felony if the defendant has four or more prior convictions for domestic battery.
The more severe crime of aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3) is a Class 2 felony offense, punishable by three to seven years in prison or a sentence of probation. If the defendant has one or more prior convictions for aggravated domestic battery, the new charge may carry a mandatory term of imprisonment of between three and seven years or an extended term of imprisonment of between seven and 14 years.
An Illinois Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Can Help
Enlisting the help of an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is of critical importance when facing domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery charges in Illinois. Being convicted of a domestic violence-related crime can have a significant, long-lasting impact on the rest of your life, even for a first offense. Under the current state law, a conviction for domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery is permanent and cannot be expunged or sealed, which means it will remain part of your criminal record forever. However, with a skilled domestic violence defense attorney on your side, you may be able to beat the charges, avoid a conviction, and safeguard your freedom and your future.