“I know it when I see it.” You’ve probably heard that quote before.
It comes from a famous 1964 Supreme Court decision by Justice Potter Stewart where they were attempting to legally determine whether something was obscene or pornographic in nature – two terms that can be quite subjective when you start delving into them.
Some people believe domestic violence is just as subjective. What one person might see as domestic violence, another might view differently.
There is a decent amount of truth to this when you start talking about individual cases and specific details regarding what actually happened and who did what. However, in a bigger picture way, the State of Illinois is quite clear on what constitutes an act of domestic violence.
Below, we’ll break down the laws of our state, focusing specifically on how the relationship between the alleged perpetrator and victim affect these types of charges.
The Legal Definition of Illinois Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in our state is covered under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. This act covers a variety of issues, including how victims can take action, how protection orders work, and more.
It defines numerous illegal acts, including domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, interfering with domestic violence reporting, and protection order violations. Additionally, it covers the charges and consequences associated with these acts.
Depending on the nature of the domestic violence offense someone is accused with, they can face charges that range from a Class A misdemeanor (for a first-time violation of a protective order or interfering with reporting) to a Class 2 felony for aggravated domestic violence.
Penalties vary as well, with Class A misdemeanors carrying a maximum of one year in jail and $2,500 in fines, and Class 2 felonies having the possibility of up to seven years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
So, what determines whether something is an act of domestic violence? In large part, it’s not what, but who.
Who Can You Commit Domestic Violence Against According to Illinois Law?
By definition, domestic violence refers to an act of violence between individuals who are involved (or have been involved) in a domestic relationship. According to Illinois statute, the types of relationships or domestic situations that meet this requirement include:
- Spouses. Marriage is, by definition, a domestic relationship. If one spouse engages in an act of violence against the other – including physical, emotional, and mental abuse – it can qualify as domestic violence.
- Former spouses. Even if your marriage ends, the law says that a violent act committed against your ex still counts as domestic violence.
- People who are (or were) dating or otherwise romantically involved. You don’t have to be married to domestically abuse your partner. Any people who are romantically involved qualify.
- Parents and children. Most of the time this manifests as child abuse, but it is also possible for children to abuse their parents. The law applies not just to biological parents, but also parents with a child in common as well as stepparents and children.
- Those related by blood through a child. If two people have a child together, anyone who is related to that child by blood can be charged with domestic violence for acts of violence against anyone else also related to the child by blood.
- Blood relatives. Engaging in an act of violence against any blood relative qualifies as domestic violence.
- Roommates (current or former) in a dwelling they share. If one roommate acts violently towards another, this is domestic violence. It can also be domestic violence if the behavior occurs once the individuals are no longer roommates.
- Disabled or elderly individuals and their caregivers. The state has deemed that caregiver-patient relationships count as domestic relationships in terms of domestic violence, so an act of violence by a caregiver against their disabled or elderly patient counts as domestic violence.
Let an Experienced Illinois Criminal Lawyer Help You Battle Your Domestic Violence Charges
As you can see, “domestic violence” means far more than hitting your partner or child. There are a number of qualifying relationships under the law, many of which you might not have realized.
If you are surprised to find yourself facing charges of domestic violence, give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome by enlisting the help of a knowledgeable Chicago defense attorney who has a history of success in these types of cases. Don’t wait – get in touch now.
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.