A common question people seem to have about domestic battery is: Can you really be charged with this crime if you never actually hit anyone? It’s a good question, but it doesn’t have a simple answer. Domestic battery is a very complex crime, and domestic violence cases require a lot of knowledge on the part of your attorney.
Take the time to understand what domestic battery is and isn’t. That’s a good start to comprehend why you may be charged with this offense when physical contact was never made. Here’s what you need to know about domestic violence, including domestic battery, in Illinois – and what sort of penalties a person convicted of this crime may be facing.
Domestic Battery: What Is It?
Domestic battery is covered by statutes in the Illinois state law that say: A person commits the offense if, without justification, they knowingly cause bodily harm or make contact of an insulting nature with someone who is a member of their household or their family.
So, what sort of contact are they talking about? The term bodily harm in the law usually refers to some sort of physical attack. This can mean biting, pushing, choking, grabbing, punching, scratching, or kicking someone.
In the case of domestic battery, however, no one has to be injured in order for someone to be charged with this crime. They simply have to make contact with them in a way that the victim considers to be provocative or insulting.
So, touching a person in a way they don’t like or spitting on someone can be considered domestic assault. You can be charged with this crime for those actions, since it’s your intentions that matter.
What Makes Battery Domestic?
You probably understand that there are charges under the law solely for battery, totally separate from domestic battery. What makes a battery domestic? It’s the status of the victim.
In the state of Illinois, battery must be perpetrated against a member of your household or family in order to be considered domestic battery. This includes:
- Anyone you are currently or have formerly been married to
- Really anyone related to you by blood or marriage
It also covers those with whom you may have shared or currently share a dwelling, such as a roommate, or anyone with whom you may share a child, whether you’ve been married or not.
Domestic Battery Penalties
If you are found guilty of domestic battery in Illinois, then what sort of penalties might you face? In most cases, it’s considered a Class A misdemeanor, which can send you to jail for up to 12 months and require you to pay fines of as much as $2500.
You may never see the inside of a jail cell, but remember: There are other consequences to a domestic battery conviction. You may be required to attend counseling, stay away from the victim due to a protective order, and have a criminal record that can never be sealed or expunged – it will always follow you around and impact your future.
It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes domestic battery can be charged as a felony crime. You may face a Class 4 felony charge if you:
- Have any prior convictions for domestic violence crimes, like domestic battery
- Harbor previous violent offenses
- Have violated an order of protection
In the event the charge is elevated to a felony, you can face up to three years behind bars. It can also be upgraded to a Class 2 felony if you have three prior domestic battery convictions, in which case you can spend up to seven years in prison.
Defenses to Domestic Battery
Sometimes situations can quickly spin out of control or things that happen were misunderstood, which is why you have the right to defend yourself in court against these charges. When you work with an experienced attorney, they can help you to determine the best defense based on the circumstances of your case. Some of the most common defenses to domestic battery include:
You are allowed to use reasonable force to protect yourself in certain situations. If the occurrence at the heart of your domestic battery case was one where you were simply attempting to defend yourself, discuss it with your lawyer. The circumstances and evidence will be presented to the court to make this case.
You Are Innocent
If you feel you are being misrepresented by the report of events that took place, then make sure to talk to your attorney about it. If you can find evidence or witnesses who back up your version of events, then you may be able to place reasonable doubt in the mind of the court. Reasonable doubt is all you need to deflate the case against you – and hopefully create a positive outcome.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.