Domestic Battery: Definitions

Definition of Domestic Battery

According to the Criminal Code, anyone who knowingly and without legal justification causes bodily harm to a family or household member or makes contact of an insulting or provoking nature with a family or household member commits a Domestic Battery in Illinois. Family or household members include those with whom you have a dating relationship or previously have had a dating relationship; persons related to you by law (i.e., mother-in-law, brother-in-law, step-parents, step-children, and step-siblings, and roommates. The contact can cause injury to the victim but need not rise to that level. For example, poking a household member with one's finger will likely not injure the recipient but could be considered insulting and provoking.

Corporal Punishment

While the above definition of Domestic Battery appears to include the physical discipline of a child, Illinois case law specifically excludes reasonable corporal punishment from the definition of domestic battery. Many police officers do not distinguish between reasonable corporal punishment and abuse of a child. Your constitutional right to privacy protects you in reasonably disciplining your child. The appellate courts have found contact that leaves bruises or welts, punishment administered by an instrument, such as a board or a belt, or contact that is otherwise excessive to be unreasonable. If you have been arrested for exercising your right to use reasonable corporal punishment, you should consult with an attorney about your charges.


Domestic Battery offenses account for a significant percentage of misdemeanor arrests in the State of Illinois because most police departments have strict guidelines that require their officers to make arrests in many circumstances. For instance, many departments require an arrest if the accused has made an admission that is corroborated by the evidence. Most departments require an arrest if any injury is observed. An arrest for Domestic Battery is particularly problematic for families. Unlike most misdemeanors, a person who is accused of Domestic Battery must be brought before a bond court judge to set bail. This could take anywhere from several hours to two days, depending on the county and the day of the week. Additionally, the bond court judge by law must enter a 72-hour stay away period, during which an accused may not return home or have contact with the alleged victim. Violation of the 72-hour stay away period is a crime in itself.


Domestic Battery is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning that it can be punishable by up to 364 days in a county jail and you can be fined up to $2500. (A subsequent offense or an allegation of a more serious injury could also result in felony charges.) It is critical to note that unlike most misdemeanors, court supervision is not available as a sentencing option for this offense. This means that if you are found guilty of Domestic Battery, a conviction will enter on your record. The conviction will be permanently reflected on your criminal history and may have employment consequences. Under Illinois law, Domestic Battery cannot be expunged from your record. Moreover, sentencing conditions almost always include completion of extensive group counseling with violent offenders that you must pay for out of pocket. Consequently, it is imperative that you seek legal advice if you have been arrested for a domestic battery.

Orders of Protection

A complaining witness who believes he or she needs an order of protection will be brought before a court for the purpose of requesting an emergency order of protection. If the court determines that there is enough evidence to substantiate an emergency petition, the emergency order of protection will be issued even if the defendant is not in court. Once the respondent is actually served with the order, he or she may not perform any of the acts prohibited by the order, such as being present at the petitioner's home or place of work, verbally harassing the petitioner, or in some circumstances having any contact at all with the protected parties whether it is harassing or not. The respondent's children could be named as additional protected parties even if they are not alleged victims of physical abuse themselves. Once served with the order of protection, the respondent will have the opportunity to contest it at the hearing date that is noted in the emergency order of protection. It is important not to miss that court appearance, or a plenary order of protection could issue without you. A plenary order of protection could restrict your liberty for up to two years in Illinois. It is important to know that once you are served with any order of protection, you cannot violate the terms of that order. The petitioner cannot grant you permission to violate any of the terms in that order. In other words, the petitioner cannot allow you to return home even for a temporary visit. Only a court of law can amend terminate the order or amend any of its provisions. If you have been served with an order of protection, you should seek legal counsel prior to appearing in court.