state-by-state basis. For example, 22 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a mandatory arrest law, which means that police must make an arrest if there is probable cause that an act of domestic violence has occurred (in some cases, they will actually arrest both people believed to have been involved in domestic abuse). The success of this type of law has been contested for year, and new evidence even suggests that mandatory arrest does more harm than good for victims.
Illinois does not have mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence, but our state does have a discretionary arrest policy based on the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986.
What the Domestic Violence Act Means for Alleged Perpetrators and Victims
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 was enacted as domestic violence gradually became a more visible and alarming problem in our state, and it is designed to protect victims of domestic abuse. Police officers are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent future acts of domestic violence, which can include:
- Arresting a perpetrator and completing a police report if there is sufficient evidence that an act of domestic violence occurred.
- Taking the victim to a medical facility if he or she is injured.
- Taking the victim or arranging transportation to a safe place such as a shelter or relative’s home.
- Removing firearms or other weapons from the home.
- Explaining to the victim that they have the right to an order of protection (a restraining order).
What Evidence is Needed to Make an Domestic Violence Arrest in Illinois?
The police do not necessarily need the admission of the alleged victim that domestic violence occurred in order to make an arrest. The reasoning behind this is that a victim may be scared the perpetrator will retaliate if they make an accusation, may want to protect the perpetrator because they believe the situation will improve or isn’t as bad as it seems, or do not want the perpetrator to be arrested for economic reasons (the perpetrator might be the family’s sole or primary breadwinner, for example). In fact, many domestic violence cases involve alleged victims who refuse to cooperate with the prosecution.
Because of this, not only do the police not need to have heard an admission from the alleged victim that domestic violence occurred, they also don’t have to witness the incident or find any evidence of physical harm. Why? Because domestic violence in our state also encompasses things like verbal threats and destruction of property. The only basis the police need for an arrest is probable cause that domestic violence occurred, which can be anything from a neighbor calling the police to the alleged victim dialing 911 in the heat of the moment.
What Should You Do If You Are Arrested for Domestic Violence in Illinois?
If you are arrested and charged with domestic violence in Illinois, you absolutely need to take the charges seriously. Even a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence can result in a sentence of up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Beyond that, people convicted of domestic violence typically experience long-term consequences, including difficulty finding a job, pursuing higher education, and finding housing. A parent who is convicted of domestic violence may also lose custody rights for his or her children.
However, you should also keep in mind that a charge is not the same thing as a conviction, and you have the right to a rigorous defense before the judge makes their decision. Illinois’ domestic violence statute (750 ILCS 60) contains some broad and subjective language that casts a wide net when it comes to domestic violence arrests, but if you have a good domestic violence defense attorney on your side, it may be possible to show that there is insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney may be able to fight for alternative sentencing, or get the charges against you reduced or dropped altogether. It’s therefore in your best interest to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested.
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 theft-related crimes and drug crimes.