Domestic violence crimes have been getting a fair amount of attention from both the media and local lawmakers in recent years, and prosecutors have become incredibly aggressive when it comes to handling accusations of domestic violence. But while domestic violence is a very serious concern in Chicago, overzealous prosecution of these crimes has unfortunately allowed for the rise of false and exaggerated claims.
Too often, individuals will use allegations of domestic violence to gain leverage in divorce or child custody, or out of a simple desire for revenge. Chicago domestic violence laws can sometimes be abused because of our state's broad definition of domestic violence. Our state considers any act of physical abuse, harassment, intimidation, or interference with personal liberty against a person with whom you are in an intimate relationship to be domestic violence. That means you can be charged with domestic violence without lifting a finger, as long as the accuser shows you have threatened or intimidated him or her in some way.
In addition, you do not have to be in a romantic relationship with an alleged victim to be charged with domestic violence. In Illinois, domestic violence can occur between relatives, current or former roommates, parents of the same child, or a current or former romantic partner.
If you have been accused of domestic violence in Illinois, you are facing prison time, heavy fines, a lifelong criminal record, and the possibility of a restraining order against you. When facing domestic violence charges, it's critical to behave cautiously and take the appropriate actions, as what you say and do can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case.
Below, we've listed three important steps to take in protecting yourself against false allegations of domestic violence.
Remain calm. During a domestic violence arrest, do your best to remain calm and cooperate with your arresting officers. Even if you feel you've been falsely accused, arguing with the police and resisting arrest can only land you in more hot water.
Do not contact the victim. If the court issues an order of protection against you, it's incredibly important to abide by those terms. Protection orders may order you to avoid all contact with the victim, stay away from their home, school, and work, and stop certain abusive behaviors. However, it's a good idea to cut off all contact with your accuser completely during proceedings, since doing so may harm your case. It is even possible for you to face consequences if your accuser calls you on the phone and you pick up. Bottom line: stay away.
Hire an attorney. As soon as possible, consult with a Chicago criminal defense attorney who has successfully handled domestic violence cases like yours before. A good attorney will listen to your side of the story, before helping you to understanding the charges facing you and explaining your options.
Your defense lawyer can work with you to gather witnesses and collect evidence, pulling from research and experience to help you build the most powerful defense possible. With an attorney on your side, you can try to expose factual, behavioral, and documentary inconsistencies to combat the false allegations. You may be able to expose your accuser's motivation to accuse you of domestic violence with evidence such as emails, letters, and other documents that reveal plans to battle over custody or to use abuse to gain leverage in divorce.
Your lawyer can help you present your case to the court, fighting alongside you to protect your rights, freedom, and future. With a skilled attorney in your corner, you have the best possible chance at getting the domestic violence charges against you reduced or – better yet – dropped entirely.
About The Author:
Howard J. Wise, the owner of the Illinois-based Law Offices of Howard J. Wise & Associates, is a criminal defense attorney who stands ready to assist clients in many different areas of the law, including criminal appeals, DUI, misdemeanors, traffic violations, and felonies. Mr. Wise began his legal career at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as the assistant state attorney, where he was able to gain unique prosecutorial experience. He then transitioned to criminal defense and currently devotes his practice exclusively to protecting the rights of those accused of crime.