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The Illinois Domestic Violence Act defines Domestic Violence as “physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, [or] interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” 750 ILCS 60/103(1) and (3). The Illinois Domestic Violence Act was signed into law in 1986. Its purpose is:  

  • to recognize the seriousness of domestic violence  
  • to recognize that adults with disabilities are at high risk of domestic violence and are particularly vulnerable  
  • to recognize the previous missteps of the legal system when dealing with domestic violence in the past  
  • to support the victims of domestic violence and protect them against further abuse  
  • to outline law enforcement’s responsibilities to provide immediate help and protection to victims of domestic violence  
  • to provide additional civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence  

750 ILCS 60/103(1) and (3).  

Statute of Limitations means that a claim must be brought to the court system before a specified period of time. Otherwise, the offense cannot be punished. There are different types of crimes that the accused can be charged with if they commit an act of domestic violence. The frequency of these violent acts can result in harsher sentences and more severe charges each time.  

Woman filling out Restraining Order paperwork

Who is Considered a Family or Household Member in Illinois?

Under Illinois law, family or household members are defined as:  

  • family members related by blood;  
  • people who are married or used to be married;  
  • people who share or used to share a home, apartment, or other common dwellings;  
  • people who have or allegedly have a child in common or a blood relationship through a child in common;  
  • people who are dating or engaged or used to date, including same-sex couples; and  
  • people with disabilities and their personal assistants.  

725 ILCS 5/112A-3(b)(3).  


What is the Legal Action in Illinois Against Domestic Violence?

A person who commits a violent act against a family or household member can be charged with various crimes in Illinois. A victim of domestic violence can also seek to establish an order of protection. O’Flaherty Law empathizes with anyone contemplating taking legal action against an abusive household member; we are ready to stand next to you in court and prepare you for every step of the process.


Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Illinois?

“Domestic Violence” is an umbrella term and not necessarily the crime that a person would be charged with if they commit a violent act against a family or household member. Some crimes that a person can be charged with are  

  • Domestic Battery - this can result in a higher sentence and/or felony charge if convicted more than once  
  • Aggravated Domestic Battery - is a felony  
  • Violating a protection order - combined with other/prior domestic violence crimes, can result in a felony conviction  

Domestic Battery occurs when a person purposefully causes bodily harm to someone in their family or household. Contact occurs in a provoking or offending way. In Illinois, Domestic Battery is typically categorized as a Class A Misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of $2,500.  

If the accused has been convicted of prior Domestic Violence crimes or found guilty of violating a protection order, then Domestic Battery can be classified as a Class 4 felony. Also, a person can be charged with a Class 4 felony if the accused was previously convicted of a violent crime against someone in their household or family. Class 4 felonies can result in prison for up to 6 years and $25,000 in fines.  

Additionally, a person can be charged with Aggravated Domestic Battery if unique factors are present during the crime, including  

  • Causing permanent disability  
  • Causing permanent disfigurement  
  • Causing great bodily harm  
  • Strangulation  

Aggravated Domestic Battery constitutes a Class 2 felony and results in a minimum jail sentence of 60 days if the judge offers conditional discharge or probation. If this is the accused’s second or higher conviction for the same crime, a sentence of 3 years in prison will be set.  

Lastly, a perpetrator of Domestic Violence can be charged with interfering with a report of Domestic Violence. If anyone prevents or attempts to prevent a victim or a witness from contacting emergency services or attempts to prevent the victim from getting medical help, the person can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.  


Is There a Statute of Limitations on Domestic Violence in Illinois?

Crimes are typically separated into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors in Illinois have a statute of limitations of 18 months. Felonies in Illinois have a three-year statute of limitations.  

Generally, the statute of limitations begins when the crime occurs. But in some circumstances where it can be challenging to discover that the crime occurred or a person evades arrest, the law might suspend the limitations period and allow more time.  

In Illinois, the statute of limitations does not include any period of time:  

  • The accused is not a resident in the state where the crime allegedly occurred  
  • The accused is a public officer and is charged with theft of public funds while in office  
  • The accused is awaiting prosecution for the same crime  
  • A material witness is on active military duty or leave  
  • The Department of State Police is processing sexual assault evidence, or  
  • A victim of unlawful force or threat of imminent bodily harm to obtain information or a confession is incarcerated, and the victim’s incarceration is a consequence of the force or threats.  

720 ILCS § 5/3-7 (2019).  


What is a Protective Order in Illinois?

In Illinois, orders of protection can be issued by the court to last up to two years to assist in protecting a person from an abusive household or family member. These orders are intended to prohibit the person named in the order from harassing, abusing, or intimidating the individual who filed the order. The court can also award the use of the residence to a person who would require the named respondent to leave the home and stay away from it.  

There are three types of protective orders in Illinois  

  • Emergency Protective Order  

An emergency order can be issued based solely on testimony given to the judge. The judge will grant an emergency order if imminent harm or abuse is likely to occur if the person is notified before receiving a protection order.  

Emergency orders can be filed at any time, even on days when the court would otherwise be closed, and the order will last about 14-21 days or until you can attend a full hearing for a plenary order (discussed below).  

  • Interim Orders  

The victim does not need a full hearing before the judge to grant an interim protective order. However, before receiving the order, the alleged abuser must have made some appearance before the court or been notified of the court hearing date.  

Interim protective orders typically last up to 30 days. These orders are often implemented between the time that your emergency order expires and your full court hearing for a plenary order can take place.  

  • Plenary Orders  

Plenary protective orders can only be granted after a full court hearing in which both the victim and the alleged abuser must be able to present their case. Plenary orders may last up to two years and be renewed infinitely.  

If an order of protection is violated, the person can be charged with violating the order and the crime that violated the order. The first violation can result in a Class A misdemeanor. If a defendant has multiple prior convictions for violating the order or for violent crimes, then the charges can be elevated to a Class 4 felony.  

Please visit our other article to review the most recent changes to orders of protection and domestic violence statutes.  


What Happens if I Break a Lease in Illinois by Moving Out?

If there is a credible imminent threat of harm, Illinois law allows victims of domestic or sexual violence to end a lease early and leave the unit to ensure their physical safety and emotional well-being. This applies to any lease, whether oral or written. Safe Homes Act. (765 ILCS 750/). The Safe Homes Act applies to any victim, including children, in the household.  

Within three (3) days of leaving, whether before or after leaving, the victim must give written notice of the future threat of domestic violence in the unit to the landlord. It is not required that police reports or a court order need to be provided for proof.  

If proper notice is given to the landlord, the victim may not be held liable for rent due after leaving the unit. The landlord cannot withhold the security deposit if the tenant lawfully exercised their rights under the Safe Homes Act.  

Be sure to remove all your belongings from the unit and return the keys; otherwise, the tenant could still be liable for the unit.  

O’Flaherty Law attorneys know that these situations are challenging. We are prepared to explain your rights when you are a survivor of domestic violence, eliminate the stress of legally protecting yourself, outline your options when leaving an abusive home, and assist in drafting and delivering your notice to the landlord to ensure you are protected from liability on your lease.  

If you need to know more about your rights regarding Domestic Violence in Illinois, please reach out to us. To request a consultation with an O’Flaherty Law Domestic Abuse Attorney, call our office at (630) 324-6666, or you can also fill out our confidential contact form, and we will get back to you shortly.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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