Domestic violence is currently a rising epidemic and controversial topic in America. As more attention is drawn to these crimes, sentencing and charges seem to be harsher and more common. If you are charged with domestic violence, will you be facing a felony?
It depends. Let’s go more in depth and talk about when domestic violence is and is not a felony in the state of Illinois.
Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is any act of violence toward a blood relative, intimate partner, or roommate. In Illinois, these acts of violence are referred to as “battery” or “domestic battery.”
Battery is the act of causing physical harm to someone, or using unlawful or provoking physical contact against another person. You can be charged with battery by causing harm to anyone. However, if you have a familial or household relationship with the victim, you will be charged with domestic battery. These relationships include:
- Current/former spouse
- Current/former significant other
- Blood relatives
- Current/former roommate
- Caregiver to elderly or disabled adult
Domestic battery starts off as a class A misdemeanor.
Penalties for Domestic Battery
If you have been charged with domestic battery and you have no prior convictions of violent crimes, you will face a class A misdemeanor. This type of charge, while not a felony, still comes with a sentence of up to one year in prison.
In situations of domestic violence, you may also be issued an order of protection. This will prohibit you from contacting or visiting the victim. If you have children with the victim, you may have to relinquish custody or pay child support. You may also have to attend anger management classes, substance abuse treatment, and compensate the victim for any medical treatment or losses that resulted from domestic violence.
Additionally, if you commit domestic battery and then interfere with the victim’s ability to report the domestic violence (calling 911, contacting law enforcement, seeking medical help, etc.) you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face additional sentencing.
So When Is Domestic Battery a Felony?
When a domestic battery charge includes aggravating factors so severe that the charge is bumped up to “aggravated domestic battery,” you run the risk of becoming a convicted felon. Aggravated domestic battery is considered a Class 2 felony in Illinois.
Some of the factors that may change your charge to aggravated domestic battery include:
- Committing domestic battery and knowingly causing great bodily harm
- Causing permanent disability or disfigurement
- Committing domestic battery via strangulation
A class 2 felony conviction comes with a sentence of 3-7 years in prison. You may be able to get probation, but you will still have to serve 60 days in prison.
It is still possible to be charged with a felony for domestic battery even if your charge does not include aggravated factors. If you have been previously convicted of any of the following violent crimes, your domestic battery charge will be bumped up to a Class 4 felony:
- Aggravated domestic battery
- Unlawful restraint
These crimes must have been committed against family members or roommates to affect your domestic battery charge.
Being convicted of a class 4 felony comes with a sentence of up to six years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.
Felony Convictions in Illinois
If you are convicted of a felony, you will also have to face additional consequences. The conviction will show up on your public record, and can be accessed by employers, landlords, and law enforcement. That smudge on your record is permanent – you cannot expunge or seal domestic battery convictions.
Many apartment complexes or employers will automatically deny your application if you have been convicted of domestic violence.
You will also lose the right to buy or possess firearms. This goes for felony and misdemeanor domestic violence convictions.
You may also lose the right to see your children, and continuing protection orders will prevent you from even contacting the victim.
There are ways to shorten your sentence and avoid the lifelong consequences of being convicted of domestic violence. Some common defenses against domestic violence include:
- Lack of proof
- False Accusation
- Seeking Rehabilitation
- No aggravating factors
Even if you don’t initially face felony charges for domestic violence, preventing any arguments that aggravating factors were present will have a big impact on your case. For a more in-depth look at your case, you need an experienced domestic violence lawyer who will keep your sentence small or prove your innocence altogether. Contact us today to get started on your defense.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.