Domestic battery is a serious criminal offense in Illinois. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor for which the court can sentence the defendant to up to one year in jail and order the defendant to pay a $2,500 fine.
Also, the minimum sentence for domestic battery is a conviction that cannot be expunged or sealed. It is a permanent record.
Where a parent is charged with domestic battery for striking a child, however, the parent can assert a defense that he or she was disciplining the child. The law provides that a parent can administer reasonable parental discipline. See People v. Roberts, 351 Ill. App. 3d 684.
Domestic battery is defined in section 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2:
A person commits domestic battery if he intentionally or knowingly without legal justification by any means causes bodily harm, or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature, with any family or household member.
The critical issue is whether the action was legally justified. If, for example, a parent spanks a child, is that domestic battery? What if the parent slaps the child? And finally, what if the parent uses a belt to strike the child? The law in Illinois allows spanking, slapping, an even the use of a belt.
A parent is legally justified in using reasonable force when necessary as part of reasonable discipline of a child.
The defendant must prove that the action taken was reasonable under the circumstances. Whether it was reasonable would be a question for the jury.
The author of this article once represented a woman who beat her daughters with a switch (i.e., an electrical cord). The cord broke the skin in numerous places and the injuries were visible. The daughters went to school the next day and school administrators called the police. A jury in the Circuit Court of Lake County found the woman not guilty. (Case No. 05 CM 6503.) Click here to read more about this case of parental discipline.
Domestic battery is a very serious charge because a conviction can never be expunged or sealed.