Domestic Violence

When an individual commits a violent act or causes physical harm within their family or in a dating relationship, the victim or the state may prosecute the person who committed the act on a criminal charge of domestic violence. Criminal domestic violence laws generally focus on physical harm, while civil domestic violence laws cover physical, emotional, and sexual harm.  Please note that the victim of domestic violence always has the option of testifying against the defendant, however the victim does not control the state’s decision to charge or prosecute an offender.  A victim of domestic violence can apply for an order of protection, also known as a restraining order, against an abuser in either the Illinois state criminal courts or the state civil court system.

Illinois Domestic Violence Act

720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/12-3.2- et. seq.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act covers violence against all direct family members, however the following people are also covered by this act:

  • spouses or former spouses
  • individuals in a current or former dating relationship
  • a parent and child or stepparent and child
  • parents who have child in common
  • individuals related by blood through a child
  • family members related by blood
  • current or former roommates in a shared dwelling
  • disabled or elderly adult and a caregiver

Domestic Battery and Aggravated Domestic Battery

Illinois domestic violence laws are delineated into two different categories, namely domestic battery and aggravated domestic battery. The key difference between these two aforementioned offenses and the more common form of battery is that they not only involve the physical harm caused to another person, but also elements of assault, specifically any unwanted, insulting, or provoking physical contact. To prove domestic battery, the state prosecutor must prove that a battery occurred within one of the relationships listed by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. If the defendant intentionally caused great bodily harm or the crime resulted in permanent disability or disfigurement of the victim, the state can increase the criminal charge to aggravated domestic battery.

Domestic Battery Penalties

Domestic Battery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year jail and a fine.  A Defendant found guilty of this offense is eligible to be sentenced to probation, as well as a fine, and possible counseling as directed by the court.

A Domestic Battery charge can be upgraded to a Class 4 felony if the defendant’s criminal history includes at least one previous conviction for domestic battery or if the action involves the use of a firearm, a child, or sexual assault.  A Class 4 felony may result in a sentence of imprisonment for one to three years, but a prosecutor might be able to request an additional punishment based on the defendant’s criminal history or the state’s sentencing extension laws.

Aggravated Domestic Violence Penalties

Aggravated Domestic Battery is a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison or a sentence of probation. In the event the court imposes a sentence of probation on the defendant, the statute requires that the defendant must serve at least 60 days of imprisonment. A defendant who has a previous conviction for aggravated domestic battery must receive a sentence of between three and seven years in prison. The term of imprisonment may be subject to an extended term of up to 14 years depending on the defendant’s criminal history.