Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

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

ran-berkovich-59513-copy-300x200Stalking is a complex crime that can take many guises. The summary of relevant laws shows that no single law has been comprehensive enough to capture all criminality. That is why the law relating to it is constantly changing in Chicago. Efforts have focused on public protection and privacy laws. However, the stalkers are so complex in their behavior that it remains virtually impossible to come up with a catch-all set of laws that are applicable in each case. Recently the state introduced bills that made it much easier to charge suspects. This was in the wake of complex prosecutions during which it seemed as if the victim was on trial. The downside to the new legislative arrangements is that they sometimes infringe on the rights of the defendants. That is where the defending attorney must be particularly vigilant.

Typically, stalking is a crime that is tied up with domestic violence or even spousal abuse according to the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3. In the past the social service agencies were unable to pinpoint the culprits because they were essentially protected by privacy laws as well as a routine dismissal of minor domestic disputes. Eventually the victim would learn that the law enforcement agencies were powerless to capture the suspect unless there was clear evidence of violence or threats of violence. The stalkers themselves exploited this loophole in order to stay ahead of the law enforcement agencies at all times. Meanwhile the victim was left to his or her own devices, essentially existing in a surveillance state until the stalker either gave up or was apprehended on another charge.

The New Legislative Regime and Practice Notes

The laws and rules relating to orders of protection in Chicago normally stem from domestic disputes. Typically, spouses seeking orders of protection are estranged or facing domestic violence. However, that does not mean that the law does not touch on other domesticated arrangements including the relationships between roommates and family members. This is a serious legal process that has significant financial implications for the party that is found to be at fault. It can even lead to a criminal record which filters down to job security, visitation rights, and custody disputes. That is why defendants in such cases will fight tooth and nail to ensure that an order of protection is not listed against them. Needless to say that the faults in writing the legislation, the police procedures as well as its wide implications has meant that it is open for abuse. This abuse is primarily associated with the application for protective orders based on false or incomplete information.

The Role of the Attorney in Getting Justice

Fact finding is an essential aspect of the protective order and will ultimately determine whether it is allowed or not. Therefore it is the responsibility of the defendant’s attorney to ensure that all relevant facts are considered. Some might be aggravating whilst others might be mitigating. The classic defense position is to maximize the mitigating issues whilst simultaneously minimizing the aggravating aspects. So far the courts have not been too vigilant in punishing those who cause them to issue unwarranted orders of protection. For example, there is sparse use of the perjury provisions of the law in these cases; partly due to the inherent belief within the criminal justice system that orders of protection lie more within the ambit of family law than criminal law.

Bride_and_groomAlthough domestic violence remains one of the more grisly aspects of criminal law, it is busy enough to keep the average attorney in work for a long time. Sadly, there are far too many people in Illinois who feel that it is acceptable for them to continue battering their intimate partners despite the fact that the law is clearly against them. However, in the quest to legislate and litigate issues of domestic violence; there is a danger of failing to account for the modern complexities surrounding the issue. For example, the notion that men are perpetrators while women are victims is beginning to fail the empirical test. All that happens is that many men who are victims feel that they will be stigmatized if they admit in open court that they have effectively been battered by their partners. The law is also not yet up to date when it comes to managing the incidents that occur amongst unconventional family structures including blended families and same sex couples.

A New Reading of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act

To its credit, Illinois has been one of the states to significantly legislate in this area and there are plenty of test cases to show that the courts are treating prosecutions with the seriousness they deserve. Nevertheless there are still victims of domestic violence, many of them who are too afraid to file a complaint. Currently the law states that it is a criminal act to choke, hit, kick, harass, threaten or hold against their will; any member of a household or family. The definition of household members is specific and includes blood relatives, married/divorced couples, those who share dwellings; people linked by a child or other blood bond, those who are dating/engaged, people with disabilities, and personal assistants. Some would argue that the law is too prescriptive and limits the applicability of prosecution depending on the relationship that exists between the two people. For example it is not clear that the law would capture “friends with benefits” or “one night stands” even though those might be prosecuted under common assault laws.

409px-Bayer_Heroin_bottle
Did you know that drug dealers can be held criminally responsible if their clients die from an overdose after purchasing their drugs? In Illinois, a drug dealer in this situation can be charged with reckless homicide. This is exactly what recently happened to an alleged drug dealer in Chicago known as “Big D.”

The Journal Times reports that the Burlington police discovered an unresponsive 28-year-old man passed out in his car at a gas station back in May. Officers tried to revive the man but unfortunately he passed away and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner indicated that the man’s cause of death was a fentanyl overdose, according to the Times. Fentanyl is an opioid-based painkiller that can be legally prescribed by a physician, but which is also sold illegally on the street.

As part of the investigation, police officers interviewed a witness who told the police that a person known as “Big D” had supplied heroin and other illegal drugs to the deceased victim shortly before his death. The dealer was identified and law enforcement officials arranged a sting operation under which the cooperating witness arranged to purchase drugs from Big D. Afterwards the dealer was arrested, charged with first-degree reckless homicide, delivery of narcotics, and conspiracy to manufacture or deliver heroin, and is being held on $100,000 bail.

27554520141_9b38f83133According to the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, approximately 77% of women who are currently incarcerated are victims of abuse. This figure is staggering and is part of the reason why this nonprofit helped to pass Illinois’ new domestic violence law, SB0209. SB0209 is important because it allows being a victim of domestic violence to be a mitigating factor at sentencing. A mitigating factor is any information presented to the court, generally about the defendant or the circumstances surrounding the crime, that has the potential to reduce the defendant’s sentence or the crime charged. Therefore, SB0209 was passed in order to enable courts in our state to reduce a defendant’s sentence if he or she was a victim of domestic violence.

Bill SB0209: History of Domestic Violence as a Mitigating Factor

According to  SB0209, if a defendant is or was a victim of domestic violence, and the domestic violence tended to excuse or justify his or her criminal conduct, then evidence of the abuse can be a mitigating factor at sentencing. In order to claim being a victim of domestic violence as a mitigating factor, the defendant must prove the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

Illinois has some of the strictest domestic violence laws in the country – enacted to recognize the serious negative impact of domestic violence on thousands of Illinois families and children. Unfortunately, with increased awareness and enforcement surrounding  these important domestic violence issues comes a greater chance of wrongful convictions.27554520141_9b38f83133

Our firm takes domestic violence allegations very seriously, while at the same time understanding that false accusations do occur, especially in emotionally charged situations like child custody disputes. If you find yourself facing domestic violence charges in Chicago, our criminal defense attorneys with experience fighting false claims of family abuse can help you seek to clear your name.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Illinois?

file0001612641889Harassment and stalking allegations are emotionally laden, complex charges to be facing at what is probably already an extremely difficult time in your life. In addition to whatever stressful situation led to the alleged criminal behavior in the first instance, you are now facing serious criminal charges. The Illinois legislature has passed extremely broad laws to curb harassment and stalking – sometimes overbroad. If you find yourself tangled up in this confusing and intricate web of laws, you need to talk to an experienced Chicago stalking defense attorney about how to defend against these charges.

Harassment in Illinois

Harassment in Illinois is defined as making an obscene or indecent comment or request to another with the intention to offend, threaten, or annoy them. It need not be face to face. You can be charged with harassment for telephone, email, text, and other communications. You can even be charged with harassment without speaking to the other person. For example, if someone repeatedly calls and hangs up on another without ever saying a word, that could rise to the level of harassment.

On July 8, David J. Marks was sentenced to serve three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections followed by a four-year term of mandatory supervised release for his conviction of aggravated domestic battery.  He pled guilty to the charge last month.13904826266_ef045fab5c

According to a news report, Marks was arrested in the parking lot of a Best Buy store in Carbondale after a battery incident was reported. According to the officers, they arrived at the Best Buy parking after two private citizens heard the victim cry for help and intervened, which allowed the victim to escape. The victim told police that Marks, her ex-boyfriend, came to her home and abducted her against her will. When they arrived at the Best Buy parking lot, Marks allegedly used a seatbelt to try to strangle her and prevented her from leaving the vehicle. After the private citizens intervened, Marks drove off but was later apprehended.

Domestic Battery Laws in Illinois

Under Illinois statute, a person is guilty of domestic battery if he or she causes bodily harm or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with any family or household member. The statute does not distinguish between minor or serious injuries – therefore, even minor scratches, bruises, or cuts will suffice for a charge of domestic battery.  Even when no injury results from physical contact, a charge may still be brought if the contact was insulting or provoking.

A “family or household member” includes the following individuals:

  • Spouses or ex-spouses;
  • Parents, children, stepchildren and other persons related by blood or by marriage;
  • Individuals who share or formerly shared a common home;
  • Individuals who have or allegedly have a child in common, or individuals who share or allegedly share a blood relationship through a child;
  • Individuals who have or have been dating or are engaged; and
  • Individuals with disabilities and their personal assistants and caregivers.

A first offense of domestic battery is usually charged as a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the defendant has a prior domestic battery conviction, has violated an order of protection, or if other aggravating factors are present, then it is a Class 4 felony. Aggravating factors include causing great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement, if the victim was pregnant when the alleged battery occurred, or battery involving a deadly weapon or strangulation. In the case above, Marks pled guilty to attempting to strangle the victim, which is why he was convicted of aggravated domestic battery.

Penalties for Domestic Battery

The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Normally, first offenders are eligible for court supervision in most misdemeanor cases.  However, with regard to domestic battery, defendants are not eligible for court supervision and the mandatory minimum sentence involves a conviction. A conviction for domestic battery can never be expunged or sealed from a defendant’s record. Therefore, domestic battery is considered to be a more serious offense than other misdemeanors. If the charge is for aggravated domestic battery, is a Class 4 felony and carries a possible sentence of one to three years imprisonment.

Continue reading

A Cook County woman was charged with domestic battery for allegedly slamming her boyfriend’s head into a public restroom following his refusal to have sex with her. She was also charged with illegal possession of prescription drugs after police saw prescription pills in her purse that had the name of another woman on the label.

147959483_a1f6dae3a4

Cook County Domestic Battery Charge

A charge of domestic battery is no different than a regular battery charge, other than the fact that domestic battery charges can only be brought against a defendant if the battery was committed against a family or household member or significant other.

Battery and domestic battery are Class A misdemeanors, so attempting to argue that the victim does not meet the criteria of family or household member would not be a good defense strategy, because the potential punishment if convicted is the same for either crime. The argument that the victim was not a family or household member would be relevant if this was a second charge of domestic battery; in those instances, conviction is a Class 4 felony. So trying to argue the charge down to “regular” battery based on a failure to meet the relationship criteria would be justified.

In this particular case the only viable defenses, if the facts supported them, would be self-defense or accidental. Based on the description of the incident – the alleged victim was using the urinal at the time the defendant approached him for sex – it seems unlikely the facts would support a self-defense claim.

That leaves the defense that it was unintentional. The crime of battery is committed only if action causing harm was committed “knowingly” – that is, intentionally. The woman was in a state of undress when her boyfriend rebuffed her advances; it is possible that she tripped putting her clothes back on. Or, if she was taking medication, it could have impaired her balance, causing her to fall against him. If either of these are true, it would have been her falling against him that caused him to hit his head against the wall, rather than an intentional action on her part.

Cook County Possession of Prescription Drugs Charges

Illegal possession of a prescription drugs is a felony, and conviction has serious consequences. The first line of defense is to prove that you had a prescription for the drug. The second is to verify that the drug found in your possession is in fact listed as a controlled substance under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act.

If you do not have a prescription, you must prove that the drugs were not truly in your possession. In this case, the police found the drugs when the woman pulled them out of her purse and placed them on the table. The pill container had another woman’s name on it. That alone is not enough to prove illegal possession. Perhaps the defendant had just picked up the prescription for a friend or family member and was planning to deliver it the next day.

Or perhaps the name on the bottle is the woman’s legal name, and she uses another for everyday life. Or maybe the opposite is true – not wanting her prescription history to get out in the event the pharmacy computers are hacked, perhaps her doctor writes the prescription under a different name. It may also be possible that the drugs inside pill bottle were prescribed to the defendant, but she was using an old pill bottle that belonged to somebody else to hold them. The mere fact that the defendant had possession of a pill bottle that did not have her name on it is not enough, on its own, to prove that she was in illegal possession of a controlled substance.

Continue reading