Although any incidence of domestic violence is terrible, it is especially tragic when victims are inadequately protected against abusers who already have a record of similar offenses. Fortunately, among the new laws that became effective in Illinois in 2014 is one that treats domestic violence even more seriously and allows higher penalties for offenders with repeat convictions. Now, victims in Cook County can feel more secure about risking coming forward and seeing their abusers receive stricter sanctions.
Overview of legal changes
Before the law became effective, repeated domestic battery charges in Illinois could only be classified as a Class Four felony, or the mildest type of felony, according to Illinois’ Rockford Register Star. Now, people who are convicted of domestic battery and already have a record of the same crime may face much steeper charges:
- A Class Four felony charge, punishable by one to three years in prison, will still be issued for offenders with one or two past convictions.
- A Class Three felony charge, punishable by two to five years of prison time, will be given to offenders with three previous convictions.
- A Class Two felony charge, accompanied by three to seven years of prison time, will be issued to offenders with four or more prior convictions.
Increasing the penalties for repeat offenders will make it easier to keep these offenders away from past victims as well as new ones. Still, this new law will not protect all victims of domestic violence, especially first-time victims, which is why it is important for people in Illinois to understand their rights in domestic abuse situations.
Domestic violence in Illinois
In Illinois, the term domestic violence covers violence, harassment and personal violations between people in numerous kinds of relationships, according to the website of the Illinois Attorney General. Any violence between blood relatives, people who are married, people who share a child or people who live together is considered domestic violence. The category also includes violence between people who are dating and between people with disabilities and their assistants.
After a domestic violence incident has occurred, victims who are family or household members may seek an order of protection. This can limit contact between the victim and offender while ordering the offender to take supportive actions such as paying child support or rehabilitative actions such as going to counseling. If the offender was not arrested when law enforcement authorities responded, victims may also file criminal charges against the offender.
Of course, domestic violence is a situation that no one is ever truly prepared to deal with, which is why it is best for victims to make use of outside resources, including legal counsel. An experienced attorney can help victims protect their rights while dealing with any related legal issues, such as divorce proceedings.
If you or any loved ones have been affected by domestic violence, make sure to speak with an attorney about your options for ensuring your safety going forward.