New Illinois Domestic Violence Laws
DuPage County Family Law Attorneys
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Therefore it is fitting that the Illinois State Legislature passed several new laws in October, 2015 that promote the goal of eliminating domestic violence. These new laws provide assistance to domestic violence victims who are transitioning out of their abusive home environment, and improvements to the process of reporting incidents of domestic violence. These laws also increase the severity of sentences that can be imposed upon those convicted of domestic violence.
It is not a requirement that domestic violence occur between only a husband and wife in order to prosecute an abuser. Domestic violence can affect many individuals outside of a marital relationship. Under the Illinois Domestic Violence statutes, those individuals that can be prosecuted for domestic violence include family or household members such as:
- Former spouses;
- Other persons related by blood;
- Those sharing a home or those that have previously shared a home;
- Those in a dating or sexual relationship;
- Caregivers to the disabled or elderly; and
- Persons who share a blood relationship through a child.
If any individual sharing a relationship with any other individual described above is found guilty of abuse, neglect, assault, battery, harassment, deprivation, or engages in any other way deemed unlawful under Illinois law, the consequences are severe. Under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, punishments range from high level misdemeanors through high level felonies that result in long prison sentences, the severing of communication between family members, and no possibility of expungement of certain domestic violence law enforcement records.
The New Laws
While each new law has the similar objective of eliminating domestic violence, each is unique in its approach and to the individuals it attempts to protect or prosecute. One new law helps victims during the process of leaving their abusive home. If an Order of Protection was issued against an abuser and certain other criteria are met, a victim of domestic violence can apply for a 60-day deferral in paying utility fees. This law aims to provide some financial security for a victim as they (and perhaps other members of their family) have an opportunity to get on their feet and find a new, safe place to reside.
Reporting Domestic Violence
Another new Illinois law eliminates punishment for over reporting calls regarding domestic violence allegations. Some local jurisdictions throughout Illinois previously allowed civil penalties for making "excessive" or "false" calls of domestic abuse. This new law seeks to emphasize the importance of reporting allegations of domestic violence. Making a report of domestic violence trumps the concern of "over-using" police resources or the possibility of false reports.
A victim of domestic violence, if faced with the possibility of civil penalties for reporting that violence because someone else may label it as false or excessive is likely not to make the call at all. The concern under the previously law was that the fear of civil punishment was having a chilling effect on the reporting of abuse. This new law erases that possibility and ensures that victims, their household members, or third parties with knowledge of abuse have the opportunity to make a call that can save lives without fear of civil penalties. The goal of this new law is to promote reporting of domestic violence so its victims can obtain help.
Crime Victims’ Rights in Judicial Proceedings
Whether or not a domestic violence victim testifies against their abuser, there are now protections in place to ensure that they are informed of their rights. Among other things, a crime victim has a right to be "free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process." Victims now have the right to notice and a hearing before a request for access to the victim’s records or information. Additionally, victims have the right to be heard at post-arraignment hearings regarding the release of the abuser. Victims of domestic violence in Illinois have a right to be notified of the information surrounding the abuser’s conviction, sentence, imprisonment term, and release, as well as a right to be present at all court proceedings. Many of these rights extend beyond domestic violence victims and to others that have been crime victims in Illinois.
Glen Ellyn Domestic Violence Lawyers
It is clear that Illinois has recently passed many laws increasing the rights of domestic violence victims. Contacting a skilled DuPage County family law attorney as soon as you are a victim of domestic violence is the best way to ensure the best possible outcome given your unique situation. At Mulyk Laho Law, LLC, we will compassionately and aggressively work with you on moving forward with your life past this difficult time. We use all tools at our disposal to obtain the best protection for our clients and their families. Contact our Glen Ellyn law office today to learn more about your legal rights as a domestic violence victim in Illinois.