In the past, the authorities did not take domestic violence seriously. In many cases, police would not even arrest an abuser unless officers witnessed the abuse with their own eyes. But, since most acts of domestic violence take place behind doors, with only abuser and victim present, this policy effectively meant police would never act against domestic violence unless it lead to death or injury so severe it was impossible to ignore.

In recent decades, this began to change. Illinois and other states began to recognize that domestic violence presents a serious threat to public safety. Furthermore, they accepted the premise that violence in a domestic situation tends to escalate.

Under the I

Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 and other laws, the authorities took an approach toward domestic violence that was based on intervention. Police don’t just wait for something terrible to happen; they act to separate the abuser from the victim. Courts get involved too, issuing orders of protection that keep the accused abuser away from the other person. Accused people who violate these orders can face serious consequences.

Many activists say these measures have saved many lives. But the interventionist approach can be unfair to the accused. Many people who have been accused of domestic violence feel they have been presumed guilty. Some who have been subject to a protective order feel they have been punished without a trial.

People who have been subject to an order of protection have the right to a hearing soon after the order goes into effect. For a number of reasons, it can be very important to put up a strong defense at such hearings. If the person is later charged with a crime, their defense will be stronger if they can show that they were defending against the accusations from the beginning.

The criminal charges associated with domestic violence can be extremely serious. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 created a new criminal charge known as domestic battery. This is a Class A misdemeanor, and can lead to up to a year in jail, a fine, plus probation and possibly mandatory counseling. If the alleged battery involved a child, a firearm or sexual assault, the charges can be upgraded to a felony, which can carry a sentence of 1-3 years in prison. In some cases, the sentence can be much more, up to 14 years.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can help people protect their rights after they have been accused of domestic violence. A good defense lawyer can help accused people understand their options and the legal strategies that can help. The lawyer can argue on the client’s behalf, watching out for their best interests. It’s important to seek out the help of a skilled lawyer as early in the process as possible.