Any circumstances of assault are liable to lead an offender to years behind bars and a criminal record of violent crime to haunt them years after in a myriad of ways.
Still, all assault charges are not created equally. The severity of your charge (and the sentence you receive) depends on a number of factors, including the victim’s identity.
Chicago Teens Face Litany of Assault Charges Due to Victim Identity
Assaulting certain protected classes of people, for instance, can dramatically increase the severity of assault sentencing and penalties, or even lead to criminal charges above and beyond assault. Take the four Chicago teens who were charged with attacking a special-needs peer and live-streaming the attack on Facebook awhile back.
Aggravated battery charges elevated in part by the victim’s identity as special-needs, charges of hate crime, as the alleged incident appeared to have been related to the victim’s special-needs status – these are two of a litany of charges they currently face.
This case is extreme, but its elevated assault charges are not uncommon. In today’s post, we share how these and other assault penalties can depend on who gets hurt.
Assault Against Protected Classes Equal Aggravated Assault in Illinois
State law says that assaulting a victim in certain protected classes of people automatically elevates the charge to that of aggravated assault, regardless of the circumstances of the alleged offense.
Assaulting a victim belonging to the following protected classes of people is automatically aggravated assault:
- Police officers
- Doctors, nurses or other medical care providers on duty during the assault
- Elderly persons
- Minor children
- Persons with intellectual or physical disabilities
Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by jail time up to 30 days. Many simple assault offenders serve no jail time for a first-time offense.
Conversely, aggravated assault is a Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, while a Class 4 felony is punishable by 1-3 years in prison.
Clearly, the identity of the victim can dramatically affect the severity of assault charges. In some cases, that’s not all. If you assault certain individuals, you could face additional criminal charges.
Disability Is Only One Classification of Illinois Hate Crime
In Illinois, a hate crime is defined as a violent, intimidating or threatening behavior that is motivated by the victim’s identity. This could include race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, ethnicity, ancestry or disability.
In the case of four teens allegedly assaulting a special-needs victim above, hate crime charges were pressed in addition to charges for the actual offense committed. In another scenario, if an offender assaults a victim based on their sexual orientation, they will almost certainly face both assault and hate crime charges.
In any Illinois hate crime case, charges are always a felony-level, and punishable by anywhere between 1-7 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
Moreover, hate crimes are usually high-profile cases, which could severely damage your reputation.
Domestic Violence Is Distinguished from Other Illinois Assaults
Illinois statutes specifically distinguish crimes of domestic violence from other forms of assault and battery.
Physically harming a family member or romantic partner is considered “domestic battery” here, and you can expect increased criminal penalties and potentially life-changing civil consequences.
Domestic battery is charged as a Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony, with the same criminal penalties as aggravated assault. However, domestic violence also carries many civil consequences including protective orders, and can severely tarnish your reputation.
As you can see, when it comes to the prosecution of assault charges, a victim’s identity can dramatically change the outlook of your case. Knowing the laws surrounding Illinois assault is the beginning of understanding how to aggressively fight back to beat any Illinois assault charges against you.
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 SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.