Can I Be Guilty of a Domestic Battery if I Didn’t Hit Anyone?

Domestic-BatteryOne of the most common questions I get asked by people who are charged with a Domestic Battery is whether they can be guilty of a Domestic Battery if they did not hit anyone.  The short answer to that question is yes.  But let’s talk a little about what a Domestic Battery is and why it is very important that you hire a good Illinois Domestic Battery lawyer who knows what they are doing.

First of all, most Domestic Batteries in Illinois are a misdemeanor.  The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor Domestic Battery is one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.  But unlike most misdemeanors, if you are found guilty of a Domestic Battery in Illinois, you cannot receive Court Supervision.  Court Supervision is a type of sentence, that if successfully completed, does not result in a conviction on your criminal record.  The lowest possible sentence that can be imposed on a Domestic Battery in Illinois is Conditional Discharge.  A Conditional Discharge for a Domestic Battery cannot be expunged from your criminal record.  This means that if you are found guilty of a Domestic Battery you will never be able to remove the conviction from your criminal record.  And that’s why even though a Domestic Battery is usually a misdemeanor it is more serious than most other misdemeanors.  Since it can never be removed from your record, the consequences of a conviction can last a lifetime.

Next let’s talk about what Illinois law considers a Domestic Battery to be.  In order for a Battery to be considered a Domestic Battery as opposed to a regular Battery, the victim has to be either a family or household member. What does that mean?  This means that the victim has to either be a spouse or former spouse, a child or stepchild, or someone related to you by blood or by a prior marriage.  A family or household member can be someone who lives with you, someone that you are alleged to have had a child with or are related to each other through a child.  A household or family member can also be someone that you are currently having, or have previously had, a dating relationship with.  So as you can see, a family or household member is rather broadly defined under Illinois Law.

There are two ways that you could be guilty of a Domestic Battery in Illinois. The first is if you cause bodily harm to a family or household member. The second way is if you have contact of an insulting and provoking nature with a family or household member.  Both involve making physical contact with another person.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to actually physically strike someone.  You can cause someone bodily harm by pushing them or by tripping them.  But you must make some kind of physical contact with that person. So even if the state is claiming that you are guilty of a Domestic Battery because you caused a family or household member bodily harm doesn’t necessarily mean that they are claiming that you struck them to cause the bodily harm.  You will be charged with the first type of Domestic Battery when there is any injury, regardless of how minor the injury is.  The second type of Domestic Battery involving contact of an insulting or provoking nature applies to cases in which there is no injury.  So the main difference between the two different types of Domestic Batteries is whether there’s injuries.  But the penalties that were described earlier apply equally to both types of Domestic Battery.  And as stated earlier, you don’t have to physically strike someone to cause them bodily harm or to make contact of an insulting or provoking nature.  Pushing, tripping, holding someone, could be enough to satisfy the requirements of the Domestic Battery law in Illinois.

Because of the serious lifelong implications that can arise out of a conviction for a Domestic Battery, it is very important that you make sure that you hire an experienced Illinois criminal defense Domestic Battery lawyer that has a long track record of successfully representing people charged with Domestic Battery in Illinois.  Give us a call.  Our attorneys know what they are doing and we can help you.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in Domestic Battery cases.  If you have a Domestic Battery case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Domestic Battery Statute,  (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2) (from Ch. 38, par. 12-3.2).