One new law in our state addresses that exact situation. The idea behind this law is to help those who are victims of domestic violence and have also been charged with a separate crime. It’s called the Domestic Violence Sentencing Consideration, and it’s just going into effect this year.
How Domestic Violence Sentencing Consideration Works
Here’s how the law works. If a person is a victim of domestic violence and they are also facing charges for another crime, their status as a victim can be a qualifying factor that the courts may consider when deciding on a sentence. Just like a judge will look at a defendant’s criminal history during sentencing to provide a proper and just sentence, judges will now be able to look at the defendant’s status as a domestic violence victim and provide a sentence based on that history.
The new law allows for the courts to look at and understand the full scope of the crime committed, and what may have been the context for the crime in the first place. In other words, being a victim of domestic violence can trigger behaviors that a person might not have engaged in if he or she hadn’t been a domestic violence victim. People may become violent themselves, or develop drug and alcohol habits that lead to circumstances which end up getting them arrested and charged with a crime.
The new law will also develop a process for courts to review resentencing petitions for certain offenses that were committed by a victim of domestic violence who was unable to show proof of domestic violence at a previous trial.
So if you were a domestic violence victim who received a criminal sentence, you may be able to petition to receive a new sentence or have your sentence modified based on the fact that you were a victim of domestic violence.
The courts want it to be clear that this new law will not be used to let people off the hook for a crime or alleviate a sentence unless it’s warranted. The law instead will allow victims of domestic violence to get any necessary help to curb and prevent further criminal acts.
Do You Qualify to Get Help under This New Law?
If you are unsure if you are a victim of domestic violence, you will have to look at the type of relationship you have with the offender. Domestic violence occurs when there is physical harm or a violent act committed within a family or dating relationship. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act details the many relationships that could potentially result in a domestic violence charge:
- Current or former spouses
- People who are currently dating or who have previously dated
- Parent and child or stepparent and stepchild
- Parents who have a child together
- Blood relatives through a child
- Blood relatives
- Current or former roommates
- Caregiver and their disabled or elderly adult patient
There is also another new law in Illinois that relates to domestic violence victims. The Utility Deposit Waiver is a law that requires utility companies – gas, electric, and water – to waive their initial deposit requirements for 60 days for documented victims of domestic violence who open new accounts.
This law is intended to help domestic violence victims escape from an abusive situation and give them some time to get their finances in order. Since many victims of domestic violence stay in unsafe situations because they can’t afford to live anywhere else, this law allows them to get to safety first and then find the financial resources second.
If someone has committed domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, or another act of domestic violence against you and you have been charged with a separate crime, you may be able to get help from this new law. The best way to know for sure is to speak with a knowledgeable criminal lawyer. An experienced Chicago domestic violence attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case and help you determine if either of these new laws apply to you.
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.