Allegations of domestic violence are not taken lightly in Illinois. In 1984, the state passed the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 which empowers law enforcement with the tools and discretion necessary to protect potential victims and punish alleged abusers. The sweeping legislation recognizes domestic violence as a serious crime against both individuals and the state which has the potential to escalate into other criminal acts. As a result, law enforcement and Illinois state prosecutors aggressively pursue allegations of domestic violence. Interestingly, a conviction under Illinois domestic violence laws to not require physical harm or injury to the victim. However, criminal domestic violence charges typically focus on physical harm, while civil domestic violence claims focus on the emotional and/or mental harm that may be inflicted.
If you are accused of domestic violence you may be charged under the Domestic Violence Act and other related statutes. The laws governing domestic violence are broad and sweeping, and provide the state with a considerable amount of leniency and discretion. Some domestic allegations may be without basis, improper, or downright untrue. However, given the victim-friendly laws, the state may still have the ability to charge you with a crime. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced Chicago domestic violence attorney could be the difference between having the charges dropped, probation, or serious jail time. At Kostopoulos Law Group, LLC, our Chicago domestic violence lawyers fight to ensure our clients’ Constitutional rights are respected and that they are given their rightful day in court to defend themselves. If you or someone you love has been charged with domestic violence in Chicago, contact us today. We will review the details of your case, ask questions to determine if you have a legitimate defense, and devise a legal strategy to fight the domestic violence charges against you.
Domestic Violence Laws in Illinois
Illinois has passed several legislative acts to discourage domestic violence and punish domestic abusers. The primary source of domestic violence legislation is found is 750 ILCS 60, or the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. The Domestic Violence Act is directed to be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes, so the state has a great deal of latitude in determining when domestic violence occurs. For the purposes of the Act, domestic violence is defined as:
- physical abuse;
- intimidation of a dependent; or the
- interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.
Again, law enforcement and the state are granted great discretionary powers and are permitted to arrest and charge alleged domestic abusers for many actions and behaviors. Police in Chicago often receive reports of domestic violence for hitting, slapping, hair pulling or biting; thrown objects or projectiles; waving weapons or objects in the direction of another; and loud, excessive yelling or screaming. The bottom line is that domestic violence charges may stem from a variety of behaviors.
Who can be the victim of domestic violence? The Act is applicable to violent or harmful behavior against family or household members. These include:
- Spouses or former spouses;
- Parents, children, and stepchildren;
- Others related by blood or marriage – such as uncles, aunts, or grandparents;
- Individuals who have or allegedly have a child in common;
- Co-habitants or former co-habitants;
- Dating or engaged couples; and
- Individuals with disabilities and their personal assistants.
The Domestic Violence Act of Illinois is not the only law under which the state may bring charges against an alleged abuser. Domestic violence can take many forms, and the act(s) may violate other state laws. Violations of laws that are typically charged in conjunction with domestic violence include:
- Domestic Battery [720 ILCS 12-3.2]. A person commits a domestic battery if he or she knowingly causes bodily harm or engages in unwanted physical contact with a family or household member. Note, a conviction for domestic battery require physical contact, while a conviction for domestic violence does not.
- Elder Abuse or Neglect [720 ILCS 20/1]. A person commits elder abuse if he or she recklessly or knowingly causes an elderly person to be physically or mentally endangered or placed in harm’s way.
- Sexual Assault [720 ILCS 5/11-1.2]. A person commits criminal sexual assault if he or she commits an act of sexual penetration using force or threat of force, knowing the victim is unable to consent, is a family member of the victim, or with a minor.
- Telephone Harassment [720 ILCS 5/26.5-2]. A person commits telephone harassment if he or she uses a telephone to harass, abuse, or threaten another person. Repeated unwanted phone calls or causing the phone to ring repeatedly may also trigger telephone harassment.
- Stalking [720 ILCS 5/12-7.3]. A person commits the crime of stalking if he or she knowingly, and on two or more occasions, engages in conduct that is intended and likely to cause fear or emotional distress in another person.
Penalties for Domestic Violence
Many actions or behaviors can trigger domestic violence violations and charges. As a result, the applicable criminal punishments vary, depending on severity. The facts and circumstances specific to your case, as well as your existing criminal record, will determine how the state classifies the charges against you.
Unless aggravating factors apply, domestic violence is typically a Class A Misdemeanor. If you are convicted of Class A Misdemeanor domestic violence, you may face a sentence of up to 1 year in jail, and/or fines of up to $2,500.
If, however, aggravating factors are present, domestic battery may be charged as a Class 4 Felony. Aggravating factors include a battery:
- Using a firearm;
- Involving a child; or
- Involving sexual assault.
Additionally, domestic battery will be charged as a Class 4 Felony if the accused has at least one prior conviction for domestic battery. If you are convicted of Class 4 Felony domestic violence, you may face a sentence of 1-3 years in prison, and/or fines of up to $25,000. In some cases, an aggravated domestic battery may be charged as a Class 2 Felony, which carries a sentence of 3-7 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Additional criminal punishments for a conviction of domestic violence in Illinois include probation, anger management classes, and court-mandated counseling. If other criminal charges are pursued – such as stalking or harassment – punishments for conviction of those crimes may be applied in addition to those for domestic violence.
Courts may issue an Order of Protection for household members who have been abused or who are likely to be abused. Violating an Order of Protection is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegation in Illinois
There are times when law enforcement may misinterpret a domestic situation or receive false accusations. If you have been charged with an act of domestic violence that you did not commit, you may be able to fight the charges in court. Common defenses to domestic violence include:
- Defending yourself or another person from personal injury or harm;
- Mutual fighting;
If you are defending yourself or another person from injury or harm you are permitted to use reasonable force. In asserting a claim of self-defense you are essentially admitting to the charges against you, but offering a legal justification for your actions.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Domestic Violence Attorney Today
If you or someone you love has been charged with domestic violence in Illinois contact an experienced attorney immediately. If convicted, the charges will stay with you indefinitely and impact your ability to exercise certain privileges in the future. Employers, landlords, or schools who run a background check will see the conviction, and your application may be denied. Those convicted of domestic violence have reported difficulty securing jobs, housing, and loans. To minimize the potential for conviction contact the knowledgeable domestic violence attorneys at Kostopoulos Law Group, LLC today.
We understand the complexities of the law and how the state pursues these serious charges. When you contact us, our skilled attorneys will review the details of your case, explain your legal rights, and develop a legal strategy to minimize the punishment you may face. If you believe you have been falsely accused we will investigate to search for inconsistencies in your accuser’s story. We understand the stress and impact domestic violence charges can impose, and we are ready to help you contest them in court.