Why Did Your Chicago Domestic Violence Charge Rate as a Felony?
Domestic violence is a crime taken very seriously by the authorities in Illinois. Even if you’ve never been convicted of a domestic violence offense before, being charged with it once can have a huge impact on your future — especially if you’re convicted of felony domestic violence.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and felony domestic violence in the state? It’s an important distinction to be aware of, especially if you’re facing charges.
Here’s what you need to know about domestic violence in Illinois: what it is, how it’s charged, and how you can defend yourself against it.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence isn’t simply one type of act. Instead, it’s an umbrella term used to describe crimes, such as battery, that are committed against a household or family members.
Who are household or family members? The law defines them in the context of domestic violence crimes as:
- Someone you are currently married to or was married to
- Children, stepchildren, parents, or anyone else you are related to by marriage or blood
- Someone with whom you share children
- Anyone you currently share a home with or have in the past
- Anyone, you may be dating or engaged in a romantic relationship with
- Caregivers of those with disabilities
Domestic Battery in Illinois
Domestic battery is a common crime of domestic violence prosecuted in Illinois. It occurs when bodily harm is caused to a household or family member by someone else. It can also be perpetrated by acting in a provocative or insulting way to a household or family member.
In most cases, domestic battery is prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor. But if you have previously engaged in domestic battery against you, or you have violated an order of protection, then you can be prosecuted for a Class 4 felony.
It is also a felony if you’ve committed other acts of domestic violence against someone in your household or family, such as:
- Aggravated domestic battery
- Unlawful restraint
- Aggravated battery of an unborn child
- Aggravated battery with a firearm
- Criminal sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual assault
- Aggravated battery of a senior citizen
- Attempted murder
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated unlawful restraint
- Aggravated discharge of a firearm
Aggravated domestic battery can be charged as a Class 2 felony as well if great bodily harm is caused to another. This remains the case if they’re permanently disfigured or disabled. Strangulation is also prosecuted as aggravated domestic battery.
What About Interfering with Domestic Violence Reporting
It is also a crime in Illinois to interfere with the report of domestic violence. Actions like preventing a call to the police, getting medical help, or reporting the incident to the authorities are considered interfering with domestic violence reporting. It is a Class A misdemeanor.
The Difference in Domestic Violence Misdemeanors
Misdemeanors involving domestic violence are unlike other misdemeanors in a few important ways. For one, misdemeanors are often eligible for court supervision if it’s a first offense. Domestic violence misdemeanors are not. That’s because court supervision usually doesn’t count as conviction and therefore can later be expunged or sealed.
A domestic violence misdemeanor can never be expunged or sealed from your criminal record. There is also a mandatory minimum sentence for domestic violence misdemeanors.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Illinois
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, such as domestic battery, then it’s a Class A misdemeanor. That is punishable by as many as 12 months in jail and fines of as much as $2,500. You may also be required to complete probation.
For domestic violence charges that are Class 4 felonies, you can face up to three years in prison and be responsible for fines up to $25,000. If you’re charged with a Class 2 felony, then you can spend as many as seven years in prison and be responsible for fines of as much as $25,000 as well.
Anyone convicted of aggravated domestic battery must spend at least 60 consecutive days in jail. Because it’s mandatory, a judge cannot reduce or suspend the sentence by ordering probation.
Additionally, any domestic violence carried out in front of a minor will require the defendant to complete a minimum of 300 hours of community service. You may also have to pay for counseling needed by the minor after the incident.
As you can see, there’s a thin line between a misdemeanor and felony domestic violence charge in Illinois. Both are quite serious and will remain on your record forever. That’s why it’s vital to understand your rights and mount the best defense you can against the charges in court.
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. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.