Domestic violence is a huge problem in our nation, and it is particularly prevalent in major cities such as Chicago. Worse, it is one of the most underreported crimes out there, with many victims reluctant to come forward for all kinds of reasons.
Additionally, domestic violence often escalates over time, and over half of female murder victims die at the hands of a current or former romantic partner. In most cases, the murder is not the first violent act towards the victim. Domestic violence is also traumatic for children in the household, and the violence may also extend to the children.
Because of all these issues, police those in Family Services often rely on third-party reports to identify incidents of domestic violence and people who may be in abusive situations. Unfortunately, this means that many reports of domestic violence are based on conjecture and hearsay, and the people coming forward often have little understanding of the actual situation.
Which brings us to the proposal of West Side Alderman Emma Mitts. Alderman Mitts is concerned that some landlords are reluctant to call police about domestic abuse among tenants. Why? Because any police visits to their buildings count towards designating the property as a criminal location. She wants to encourage more landlords to get in touch with police by changing this law.
What Alderman Mitts Wants to Change, and What It Could Lead To
Under current legislation, a property can be declared a “chronic illegal activity premises” if police have to respond to three different crimes at the location within 90 days. A building can also be declared a public nuisance if two felonies are committed on the premises in a six-month period.
Mitts has therefore proposed an ordinance stating that “any contact made to the police or other emergency services with the intent of preventing domestic or sexual violence” would not count towards this tally.
Although this potential legislation is well-intentioned, increased reporting of domestic violence by landlords also has the potential to lead to false accusations, as these accusations could be based on hearsay or incorrect information.
Let’s take a look at Chicago’s domestic violence problems, and how increased reporting by landlords might just complicate the situation further.
Chicago’s Domestic Violence Problem, and Where Landlords Fit In
As mentioned above, domestic violence is a major problem in Chicago, accounting for 44.3% of violent crime admissions to the county jail, and 12.7% of overall admissions. In fact, the only category that outranks domestic battery is possession of controlled substances.
Domestic violence is more likely in families that live in rented properties, particularly in poor communities. Since most instances of domestic violence occur in the home, the argument is that landlords may be aware of them. In some cases, landlords may bear witness to acts of domestic violence. In others, they might receive noise complaints or reports from other tenants.
Because victims of domestic violence are often afraid to report it, landlords have the potential to speak out for these victims and put an end to a dangerous and abusive situation. That’s one side.
The other side is that although landlords have the potential to help victims of domestic violence, there is also a great potential for landlords to inadvertently make false reports. An outside party such as a landlord may have incorrect information, and information from other tenants could be considered hearsay.
The Consequences of False Domestic Violence Reports
The penalties for domestic violence are quite severe, so wrongly accusing anyone of this serious offense could lead to major repercussions. Even first-time offenders for domestic battery with no aggravating factors face up to one year in prison.
Moreover, false reports of domestic violence could negatively impact the entire family. The family will endure the burden of legal fees to defend the wrongly accused, and other financial repercussions such as lost wages.
If you or a loved one are facing accusations of domestic violence, be proactive by retaining the best available criminal defense attorney. He or she will make sure that your rights are protected, and will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
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.