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When to Consider a Plea Bargain

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Chicago criminal defense lawyerEveryone wants their case to be dismissed, or at least to be acquitted at trial. In many cases, getting off the hook completely is entirely possible. If the evidence is not so strong, or the police have violated your rights in a serious way, then hoping for dismissal or acquittal is not unreasonable at all. However, courts do not just dismiss cases once criminal charges have been filed without a very good reason. In some cases, taking a plea bargain may be the best strategy for minimizing the impact the charges could have on your life. Before you consider changing your plea or taking any other offer made by the prosecution, it is crucial to discuss your options with an experienced attorney. 

Situations in Which Taking a Plea Bargain May Make Sense

One of the big risks of going to trial is that if you are convicted at trial instead of pleading guilty to a lesser offense, you may face harsher sentencing for a more serious crime. Some factors that may push you and your lawyer toward accepting a plea bargain include: 

  • Avoiding a felony - Being a felon can mess up the rest of your life in a way that having a misdemeanor would not. If your original charge is a felony offense, and you are offered a plea bargain that would reduce it to a misdemeanor only, it may be better to play it safe. 

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IL defense lawyerViolence is all too common in Chicago. The city is known for having constant struggles with violent crime, often including a disproportionate amount of homicides and shootings. Attempts to crack down on violent offenses are underway - and you do not want to get caught in a wave of prosecutions against those accused of committing them. If you have been charged with an assaultive offense, it is important that you understand what your particular charge actually means. You may find that your charges seem incredibly aggressive or are far too severe in regards to what actually happened. In many cases, an attorney can have very serious felony charges reduced to something much less serious during the process of plea bargaining. But first, you need to know exactly what it is you are accused of doing.

What are Battery and Aggravated Battery?

Battery or aggravated battery - The basic definition of battery in Illinois is making unjustified physical contact with a person that either causes them bodily harm or is insulting and likely to provoke them. In its misdemeanor form, battery could include actions like slapping or pushing someone.

Aggravated battery is much more serious. It is a felony. This offense is charged when a battery is committed and an aggravating circumstance exists, such as:

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IL defense lawyerGetting charged with a DUI can be frightening. If you find out that you have been charged with a felony DUI, the situation is even direr. Felony charges can carry more than a year of prison time should you get convicted. While most DUIs are charged as a misdemeanor, even a first DUI can lead to felony charges in the wrong circumstances. Or, repeated DUIs can be charged as a felony. In some cases, it is possible for an attorney to help have your charges reduced back to a misdemeanor or dismissed. A lot will depend on the specific facts of your case, such as whether you injured someone and whether the police officers did everything correctly. The first thing you need to do is reach out to a qualified criminal defense attorney.

What Is Misdemeanor DUI?

A simple first or even second DUI is generally going to be charged as a misdemeanor. If you were simply pulled over with a BAC that was a bit too high, you are more likely than not looking at a misdemeanor, which carries less than a year of jail time. If this is your first offense, then a good attorney can typically make a strong case that jail time is not appropriate. Your attorney is very likely to suggest that you take the initiative of getting treatment for alcohol abuse.

Why Would a DUI be Charged as a Felony?

If you are being charged with a felony DUI, it is probably for one of these reasons:

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IL defense lawyerBeing charged with a crime you did not commit can be a nightmare. One of the most common offenses that innocent people are charged with is domestic violence. It is shockingly easy to be arrested for domestic violence based on a false accusation, often by an angry romantic partner. There are a number of reasons that people make these false accusations. It is extremely easy for a simple fight between a couple to spiral out of control. Perhaps a neighbor called the police because they heard yelling and the police arrested you for lack of a better solution. Or maybe your romantic partner intentionally filed a false police report out of spite. However it happened, it is extremely important that you focus on building a strong defense. A domestic violence conviction is heavily stigmatized and can impact the rest of your life.

Steps Innocent People Can Take After a Domestic Violence Arrest

How you handle the accusation will make all the difference. Steps you should take include:

  • Get a lawyer - The most important thing you can do to help yourself is to find a good lawyer. A domestic violence charge is far too serious to handle on your own.
  • Obey the protection order - If you were arrested for domestic violence, you were most likely served with a protection order that prevents you from contacting the alleged “victim” or going to their home. If you lived with the liar, this means you cannot return home. As difficult as it may be, it is extremely important that you strictly obey the terms of the restraining order. A violation can get you arrested again, and that charge might stick even if the original domestic violence charge goes away.
  • Do not post about it - As tempting as it may be to lambast the person who made the false accusation on social media, or to vent about the situation to your followers, do not do this. It is best to avoid mentioning the charge or the alleged “victim” on social media entirely.
  • Show up for court - As frightening and uncomfortable as it may be to appear before a judge for something you did not do, you absolutely must show up for court dates. If at all possible, try to find an attorney before your first court date.
  • Prepare for trial - Domestic violence charges are very rarely just dropped. You may need to go to trial to fight the charge.

While being charged with a crime you did not commit is incredibly scary, dismissal or acquittal is possible. However, you must handle your case correctly.

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IL defense lawyerDrivers of commercial vehicles, including long-haul trucks, delivery vehicles, and other vehicles driven for work-related purposes, put significant time and effort into obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Since this type of license is a requirement for certain occupations, the loss of a CDL may affect a person’s ability to continue earning an income, and it could cause significant financial difficulties for them and their families. Because of this, drivers will need to be aware of CDL violations that could affect them, and they will want to respond promptly to traffic tickets or other issues that could affect their careers.

CDL Disqualifications for Traffic Offenses

Certain types of offenses are considered to be “major violations” that will result in the automatic disqualification of a CDL. DUI is one of the most common of these offenses. When driving a commercial vehicle, a person will be considered to be intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 percent or higher or if they are under the influence of controlled substances. However, a commercial driver may also lose their CDL if they are convicted of drunk or intoxicated driving in a non-commercial vehicle.

Other offenses that are considered major violations include leaving the scene of an accident while driving a commercial or non-commercial vehicle, committing a felony while operating a vehicle, or committing vehicular homicide while driving a commercial vehicle. In most cases, a person’s first major violation will result in the disqualification of their CDL for one year, and a second major violation will result in a lifetime disqualification. However, if a person uses a vehicle to commit felony drug crimes related to manufacturing or distributing controlled substances, they will face a lifetime disqualification for a first offense.

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Chicago criminal lawyerOriginally published: December 26, 2016 - Updated April 20, 2022

Update: At our law firm, we have consistently kept up with all of the changes to the laws regarding marijuana use in the state of Illinois. A few years ago, we put together the post shown below as a consideration in the decriminalization of cannabis that was going on at the time. We highlighted some expert opinions that expressed concern over the use of drug-sniffing dogs in the state as the criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession were being lifted.

Today, these concerns have grown even further as the state of Illinois has fully legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults in the state. As of January 1, 2020, an adult over the age of 21 is permitted to possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes and to purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries.

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cook-county-dui-defense-lawyer.jpgWhen you are arrested on charges of driving under the influence, you probably realize that the criminal penalties for a conviction can be severe. It may come a surprise to learn that you could face administrative penalties, including the suspension of your driving privileges, even if the criminal charges against you are dropped or you are found not guilty of DUI. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers understand that most DUI cases are multi-faceted, and we are equipped to help you at every stage of the proceedings.

Blood Alcohol Content Testing

Chemical testing for blood alcohol content, or BAC, is one of the most common methods used by law enforcement to collect evidence in a DUI-related case. If you have been pulled over by police and the officer asks you to submit to such testing—usually a breath test—but you have not been arrested, you have the right to refuse the test with no legal or administrative consequences. If you have been placed under arrest on suspicion of DUI, however, and the officer requests a chemical test, the entire situation changes.

Under the state’s implied consent laws, by operating a motor vehicle on Illinois roads, you agree to submit to requested BAC testing if you are arrested for DUI. If you are arrested and you refuse such test, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. Your license will also be suspended if you submit to the test and fail it. A failed chemical test means a BAC level of 0.08 or more for most non-commercial adult drivers. The standard is lower for commercial driver’s license holders, and any trace of alcohol constitutes a failed test for drivers under the age of 21. 

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Chicago drunk driving lawyerIf someone asked you right now, could you stand on just one foot for 30 seconds while holding your other foot just off the floor? What about walking heel-to-toe along a straight line, then turning and coming back on the same line? What if the line was imaginary, and you could not see it? Did you know that if you had trouble with either of these exercises, federal agencies indicate that there is about an 80 percent chance that you are currently intoxicated?

Clearly, this was meant to be an exaggeration, but the reality is that the tests mentioned in the previous paragraph are actually part of the battery of tests that the police use every day to test drivers who are suspected of being impaired by alcohol or drugs. The results are commonly used as evidence for the prosecution in DUI cases, even though the tests are not quite as accurate as the police and prosecutors want you to believe they are.

What You Should Know About FSTs

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes three tests as being effective in establishing a driver’s impairment level. Together, these three tests are known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, or SFSTs. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or HGN, is used in addition to the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand tests. The HGN test requires the driver to follow a pen or a finger using only his or her eyes. (The officer is watching for involuntary eye movements, particularly at the periphery, that are used as indicators of impairment.) The tests are usually administered together, and courts across the country generally accept the results as evidence of the driver’s intoxication. Such evidence, however, can and sometimes should be challenged.  

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shutterstock_1848965575.jpgOn January 1, 2020, marijuana became legal for recreational use in Illinois. While the state had previously allowed marijuana to be used for medical purposes by people who had received a state-issued medical registration card, all adult residents of the state and visitors from other states are now allowed to possess and use marijuana. However, there are certain limits that apply to recreational use of marijuana, and people may still face drug charges if they violate the state’s marijuana laws.

Drug Charges for Possession or Distribution of Marijuana

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act made it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess a certain amount of marijuana for recreational use. A person may possess up to:

chicago defense lawyerGas prices have skyrocketed over the decades and paying for fuel is one of the most onerous aspects of car ownership. However, the State of Illinois gives no free passes for gas theft. The crime is punished harshly, with serious consequences that can upend your life. Gas theft takes many different forms. The offender may drive to the gas station and siphon gas directly into his vehicle or walk to the pump and fill a jerry can or barrel.

If you are charged with the crime of gas theft, you have the right to legal representation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide you with options and chart a path forward based on your needs.

Misdemeanor v. Felony Gas Theft

Per Illinois law, theft occurs when a party knowingly steals property belonging to someone else. You can also face theft charges for buying or receiving stolen goods. The element of intent is important in a fuel theft case. The offender must knowingly take fuel without paying for it and without any available pretense that would justify his actions (e.g., being told by the station owner not to pay for the gas).

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chicago criminal defense lawyerIf you are accused of domestic violence, you may also be the subject of a protective order. Courts issue protective orders to preserve the safety and well-being of domestic violence victims. They may be imposed if the offender allegedly abused, harassed, or intimated the victim. An order is also warranted if the personal liberty of the victim was allegedly violated, or they were willfully deprived of basic necessities so as to put them at risk of physical, mental or emotional harm.

Protective orders are issued when an alleged victim is threatened or harmed by a former or current household or family member, including: 

  • People related to the offender by blood
  • Those who reside in the same home as the offender
  • People who have a child with the offender
  • A person who is married to or dating the offender
  • People with a disability or other high-risk adults at risk of abuse.

The State of Illinois takes domestic violence very seriously and imposes harsh penalties for violating a protective order.

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IL criminal lawyerThere is no doubt that domestic violence is a real concern in the Chicago area. On average, more than 500 people call domestic violence hotlines every day in the Chicago area.

The state of Illinois takes domestic battery and family violence very seriously. Individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses often face lengthy prison sentences and other serious consequences. Sadly, some people use Illinois’s strict policies to “punish” or get revenge on others by reporting false accusations of domestic violence.

If you or a loved one were accused of domestic violence by a current or former romantic partner, household member, or family member, contact a criminal defense lawyer right away for personalized legal guidance.

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IL DUI lawyerBreath interlock ignition devices connect to a car, truck, van, or other vehicle and control the vehicle’s ignition switch. In order for the ignition to engage and the vehicle to start normally, the driver must submit a breath sample into the mouthpiece of the device by blowing into it. The device analyzes the driver’s breath for alcohol. If the device registers any more than a negligible amount of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. If the breath sample contains no alcohol, the car starts normally. Read on to learn about how Breath Alcohol Interlock Ignition Devices (BAIIDs) are used in Illinois and whether you will be requested to get a BAIID installed on your car after an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.

When Is a BAIID Required in Illinois?

If you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Illinois, and you fail a breath test such as a Breathalyzer, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for six months. If you refuse to take the Breathalyzer, your license is suspended for a year. Once your license is suspended, it becomes unlawful for you to drive any vehicle for any reason. At this point, you have two options: You can refrain from driving until the suspension period is over or you can ask for driving relief through a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP).

Adult drivers who have not previously received a statutory summary suspension or been convicted of DUI may be able to regain driving privileges through an MDDP. To get an MDDP and regain your ability to drive, you must have a BAIID installed on your car. You will have to submit an alcohol-free breath sample anytime you want to start your car. You will have to submit additional breath samples while you are driving intermittently. The MDDP only allows you to drive in the vehicle containing the BAIID. You are prohibited from driving a vehicle without a BAIID.

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IL defense lawyerUnfortunately, a surprising number of people find themselves the victims of assault, battery, and other violent offenses every year in Illinois. Even more shocking, many of these people end up being the person who is charged with a violent criminal offense. If you were charged with a violent offense after defending yourself in a robbery, fight, or attack, you may be bewildered and unsure of what to do. The first step is to assert your right to remain silent and contact a lawyer for help. You could be facing life-altering consequences, including considerable jail time.

Can I Face Charges if I Acted in Self Defense?

When police are called to the scene of a physical altercation, they do not know the events that preceded their arrival. In many cases, it is nearly impossible to tell how a fight started or who is the true culprit. This can lead to victims being treated like criminals. You may have been arrested and charged for assault, battery, or even homicide even though you were only acting in self-defense. Do not take these charges lightly. Speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

What Does Illinois Define as Self Defense?

In order to prove that your actions were not malicious but instead an act of self-preservation, your lawyer will need to demonstrate that you used reasonable force to defend yourself, another person, or your property.

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IL defense lawyerAccording to national statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, July 4 is one of the most dangerous days of the year for fatal car accidents involving alcohol. Drinking is a part of many Fourth of July celebrations, and understandably, law enforcement officers in Illinois and throughout the U.S. are always on high alert for drivers who show signs of impairment. A DUI arrest could easily ruin your holiday weekend, especially if you are in an accident resulting in injury or death. You should be careful to avoid putting yourself in a situation in which you could face serious criminal charges.

Refrain From Drunk Driving

Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's are all holidays where family and friends enjoy getting together and celebrating. The best way to avoid DUI charges is to avoid driving altogether if your abilities may be impaired by alcohol. Here are some suggestions that can help keep you and others safe on holidays:

  • Celebrate at home. Hosting a celebration at your own home, even just for your own family or close friends, means that you will not have to figure out how to get home afterward. If guests are driving to your gathering and planning on drinking, you might even consider asking them for their car keys to prevent them from driving home drunk.
  • Understand the effects of buzzed driving. One of the most costly mistakes for drivers is underestimating the effects that even a small amount of alcohol can have on their driving abilities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that even with a BAC of 0.02, well below the legal limit, a driver’s attention, judgment, and visual functions may be impaired. If you plan to drink at all, staying off the road is your safest bet.
  • Arrange for a designated driver. As you make your plans for the holiday, try to identify someone in your party who will stay sober. A designated driver who abstains from drinking is a safer option than a driver who tries to monitor their alcohol consumption and driving abilities.
  • Use a rideshare service. If you cannot find a designated driver, or if the night does not turn out as expected, you can always hire a rideshare driver to help you get home safely. This may come with a cost, but it is far less expensive than the consequences of a DUI conviction.

Contact a Chicago, IL DUI Defense Attorney

If you are pulled over or arrested for driving under the influence, it is important to understand your rights, including your right to consult with a Cook County criminal defense lawyer. At Luisi Legal Group, we represent clients who are facing DUI charges and help them present the best possible defense. If you need experienced legal representation, contact us at 773-276-5541 and schedule a free consultation.

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IL defense lawyerFatal car accidents are a sad reality in Illinois, with around 1,000 people losing their lives each year. These crashes are an undeniable tragedy for the victims and their families, and they can also be incredibly difficult for the other drivers involved, who are left to cope with the mental impact and the legal consequences they may face in civil and criminal court. If you have been involved in a fatal car crash, you could face homicide and other felony charges, and it is important to work with an attorney who can help you protect your rights.

Understanding Reckless Homicide Charges in Illinois

It is important to note that not all fatal accidents will result in criminal charges against one of the drivers involved. However, if there is evidence that a driver was acting recklessly at the time of the crash, they may be charged with the criminal offense of reckless homicide. The standards for determining recklessness are similar to those for a regular reckless driving charge.

This means that in most cases, the driver must have been acting with “willful or wanton disregard” for other people’s safety, or have intentionally used an incline to make their vehicle airborne. However, certain other actions can also be considered recklessness for the purposes of a reckless homicide charge, including driving at least 20 miles per hour above the posted speed limit in a school or maintenance zone or failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.

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IL defense lawyerBurglary is commonly thought of as being synonymous with theft, but its legal definition is significantly more complicated. If you have been charged with a form of burglary in Illinois, it is crucial that you understand what you have been accused of and the severity of the possible penalties you may face. An experienced attorney can not only ensure that you are well-informed but can also provide you with the defense you need to protect your rights.

What Is Burglary?

According to Illinois law, burglary at its most basic is defined as unlawfully entering or staying in someone else’s property with the intention of committing a crime of theft or any felony offense. Burglary can happen in buildings and various types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, aircraft, and railroad cars.

  • Burglary charges can significantly range in severity depending on factors including the location, the presence of other people, and the damage done. For example:
  • Burglary in a vehicle without causing damage is the least serious burglary charge, a Class 3 felony with up to five years in prison.
  • Burglary in a building, as well as burglary causing damage to a vehicle, are Class 2 felonies with up to seven years in prison.
  • Burglary in a school, daycare facility, or place of worship is a Class 1 felony. Burglary in a home is specifically known as residential burglary, and it is also a Class 1 felony. A conviction can result in up to 15 years in prison.
  • Residential burglary that takes place when the perpetrator knows that people are present, and when the perpetrator injures a person or uses or threatens force with a dangerous weapon, is known as the offense of home invasion. This is a Class X felony with a prison sentence of up to 30 years, which can be extended based on the specific circumstances.

Defense Strategies for Burglary Charges

Given the range of possible charges for burglary and related offenses, an experienced attorney may be able to help you reduce the charges or avoid conviction entirely. For example, if you are charged with home invasion, your charges may be reduced to residential burglary if you can demonstrate that you surrendered immediately upon realizing that people were in the home. If you are charged with burglary or residential burglary, your charges may be reduced to criminal trespass if you can demonstrate that you had no intention of committing a felony or theft. In a case of mistaken identity, your attorney may be able to help you avoid conviction by providing a strong alibi.

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IL defense lawyerEven though the right to own firearms is written into our country’s constitution, gun ownership has been a highly contested issue in the United States for years. Illinois was the last state in the country to legalize the concealed carry of firearms in 2013, finally allowing its citizens to keep a firearm on their person without it being in plain sight. To legally practice this right, however, you must follow certain rules and procedures, or you could face criminal charges.

Gun Ownership Laws

In the state of Illinois, you are permitted to own firearms, but only after you have received your firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card. The requirements for getting a FOID card include being at least 21 years old, not being a convicted felon, and not being addicted to narcotics, among other requirements.

If you wish to carry a firearm on your person and keep it out of plain view, you must have a concealed carry license (CCL). Requirements to receive a CCL are similar to those for a FOID card, but there are additional requirements that must be met. The requirements for receiving a CCL include:

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drugs_20210331-223128_1.jpgIn Illinois, the criminal consequences for possession of illicit substances vary significantly by the type and quantity of the drug. Possession of cocaine or heroin are felony offenses punishable by several years to several decades in prison. The greater the quantity of the substances allegedly in your possession, the harsher the penalties. Second or subsequent offenses and cases involving certain aggravating factors such as possession near a school are penalized more heavily. Criminal charges for possession of an illicit substance have the potential to dramatically impact your life. If you have been arrested for possession of heroin or cocaine, it is crucial to assert your rights and build a strong defense against the drug possession charges.

Drugs Were Discovered During an Illegal Search and Seizure

Many drug-related arrests are the result of law enforcement officers searching an individual’s personal property. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens’ privacy and prohibits “unreasonable” search and seizure of property. Typically, to search a person or his or her property, a police officer must have:

  • Verbal consent from the property owner/occupier or the person being searched
  • A valid search warrant
  • A valid arrest warrant
  • “Probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is occurring

Police cannot simply stop and search someone without a valid reason for doing so. If evidence including drugs or drug paraphernalia is discovered by police during an unlawful search and seizure, that evidence may be inadmissible during any subsequent criminal proceedings. If key evidence in a criminal case was acquired through an unjustified search, the case may be dismissed entirely.

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IL criminal lawyerFebruary is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which brings to light domestic abuse issues. This past year has been difficult for many people due to the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Unfortunately, this hardship has led to more reports of domestic violence in U.S. households. Spouses or romantic partners who have lost relatives to the virus or who are facing financial crisis due to a job loss may take out their anger and frustrations on each other. Arguments are normal within relationships, but when disputes turn to physical altercations, criminal charges can be filed. In some cases, however, a person may be falsely accused of abuse by a family or household member. If you are facing charges of domestic violence in Illinois, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you avoid a conviction.

Accusations of Violence

Uncertain and trying times like what Americans experienced in 2020 after the coronavirus spread throughout the country can take their toll on even the most optimistic people. The stress of being quarantined can put stress on any couple, leading to allegations of domestic violence, which is a crime in Illinois. It is defined as violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving a spouse or partner. Anyone who hits, kicks, chokes, harasses, threatens, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member has committed this offense. Under Illinois law, family or household members are considered those related by blood or people who are married or were married at one time.

Alleged acts of domestic abuse can take any of the following forms:

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