Domestic Abuse in Chicago: Where the Law Intersects with Family Disputes

ben-white-194220-copy-300x200The state will always interfere in domestic relationships if there is a threat of harm or actual harm to one of the parties. The most common trigger for a prosecution is physical violence. However, lately there has been some consideration of what other forms of abuse might mean for legislation in Chicago. Currently there are some civic domestic violence laws that are focused on both physical and non-physical forms of abuse. Sexual abuse between domestic partners is normally handled under the legislation covering sexual assault and rape.

Most members of the public will first hear about a domestic violence case by way of an order of protection, which is sometimes accompanied by relevant restraining orders. It is important to note that these orders can be issued by the criminal courts as well as the civil courts. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act is the leading piece of legislation covering this area. The act is known for covering many relationship types beyond marriage including but not restricted to:

  • Former spouses
  • Former and current intimate partners
  • Parents, step parents, children, and step children
  • Parents with a child in common
  • All individuals related by blood through a child
  • Family members related by blood
  • Current and former housemates
  • The elderly, disabled
  • Caregivers

The law in this area tends to have some connection to the sphere of domestic battery and its aggravating features. Some cases have shown that insults could meet the criteria for some parts of the act. Following complaints from defendants about being subject to agent provocateurs, the law started to include any act that is designed to provoke physical contact. The relationship is important in order to prove the case because the legislation has made the relationship structures an integral aspect of the crime. Intentionally causing great bodily harm is an aggravating feature, particularly if that action led to disfigurement or permanent disabilities. The victim is still free to sue for compensation in civil court on account of any injuries.

Penalties and Remedies

The provisions of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/12-3.2- et. Seq. provide the most up to date reading of the envisioned sentencing guidelines. However, court practice notes and precedent are important in clarifying these matters. Currently domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor which could lead to a term of imprisonment of up to a year in jail. Other alternatives and additions include: probation, court-directed counseling, and a fine.

The crime will be upgraded to a Class 4 felony if the defendant has at least one past criminal conviction relating to domestic battery. The other aggravating features include the use of a firearm, any crime involving children and those incidents that have some element of sexual assault. These types of class 4 felonies can attract terms of imprisonment that range between one and three years. Prosecutors are granted the discretion to request for an elevation of punishment depending on the defendant’s criminal record. The state also has some sentencing extension laws so as to give the courts maximum flexibility.

The aggravated domestic battery is top of the index offense ranking in this category of leading cases. It can lead to a Class 2 felony conviction, which can result in up to seven years in prison. Even where probation is granted, the defendant is required to be in prison for at least two months. Previous convictions for aggravated domestic battery mean that there is a mandatory sentencing guideline of between three and seven years. State law has allowed a maximum of 14 years but subject to some requirements. Call David Freidberg, Attorney at Law right now at 312-560-7100 to get the legal help you need today.

(image courtesy of Ben White)