Illinois takes domestic violence charges extremely seriously, and in Chicago, police officers do not take lightly to offenders who have been accused of harming loved ones. These crimes are serious, and police officers, lawyers, and judges are all working together to make sure that domestic violence is not tolerated in our state.
However, despite Illinois’s fervor to completely eradicate domestic violence, our state’s complicated laws can sometimes thwart its own efforts. Some of the domestic violence laws are too nuanced or too vague, thus making them more unhelpful than helpful. In some cases, the laws can not only hinder the state’s efforts to crack down on violence, but they can create serious danger for anybody accused of domestic battery.
Illinois Domestic Battery Law
According to Illinois law, an individual commits domestic battery if he or she:
- Causes bodily harm to any family or household member, and/or
- Makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with any family or household member
Unfortunately, “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature” can be just about anything. Although this law is of course intended to protect innocent citizens, it can be disastrous for wrongfully accused men or women. Sometimes, stressful or surprising situations can cause an individual to react in a way that may take somebody else by surprise. Even if the first individual had no violent intentions at all, if his or her actions were perceived as such, they could end up facing serious legal consequences.
Illinois’s domestic battery law means that even the most minor contact can be considered domestic battery.Click To Tweet Worse, there doesn’t even have to be any physical contact involved at all. If a person makes a threatening gesture—or, more accurately, if a person is believed to have made a threatening gesture—he or she may wake up to cops knocking at the door the next morning.
When the Laws Backfire
As mentioned, these laws exist to keep people safe. Men and women in violent relationships can take comfort in these laws and in knowing that there are rules in place that will protect them and ensure their safety.
For accused individuals, though, these laws can be presumptuous, intrusive, and unfair. What happens if a “domestic battery” charge is just the result of a misunderstanding? What if a gesture that someone else perceived as threatening was never intended to be malicious at all?
Misunderstandings and misinterpretations happen all the time. Usually, the consequences of a misunderstanding like this are not too severe, but if cops are called and the law gets involved, things can go downhill fast for the accused.
The consequences of a domestic battery charge can be disastrous. As with most crimes, the consequences get worse with each charge. If this is your first offense, you may be facing a fine of $2,500 and up to one year in a jail. But if it is a second or third offense—which would kick the charge up from a misdemeanor to a felony—the consequences could be much more severe: up to three years in prison.
Consequences like this are far too serious to risk, especially if they are the results of the most minor physical contact. Not only could you be faced with immediate jail time and fines, but you may also wind up with a mark on your permanent record, which could have repercussions for the rest of your life.
What to Do If You’re Charged with Domestic Battery
In any situation, if you’re convicted of domestic battery, whether it was a misdemeanor or a felony, and whether it was a result of documented physical abuse or a supposedly threatening gesture, the conviction will wind up on your criminal record. This means that anyone will be able to see this information when conducting a routine background check, including employers and landlords. Such a charge will stay with you for the rest of your life and could haunt you for years to come.
Luckily, it is possible to defend yourself against domestic battery charges. A lawyer who’s handled these kinds of cases before will know how to fight back and will work with you to develop the most effective defense strategy for you. A battery charge does not have to mean jail time and it certainly does not have to mean that your life is ruined.
If you find yourself facing domestic battery charges, do not risk the consequences. As soon as you find out that you’re being arrested, contact a knowledgeable domestic violence lawyer immediately. The sooner you act, the better your chances at getting a positive outcome.
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.