Dec 16

Domestic battery is an Illinois crime that involves harmful or offensive contact between people who share a relationship. Often referred to as domestic violence, this offense only occurs if the perpetrator and victim share some kind of relation, such as family members or romantic partners.

What is the Illinois Definition of Domestic Battery?

720 ILCS 5/12-3.2 defines what qualifies as domestic battery under Illinois law. This section prohibits any person from knowingly and without legal justification:

  • Causing bodily harm to any family or household member; or
  • Making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with any family or household member. 

On a related note, 720 ILCS 5/12-0.1 clarifies the definition of a family or household member under Illinois law. This term can refer to a person’s:

  • Present or former spouse;
  • Parents, children, step-children;
  • Other relatives by blood or marriage;
  • Cohabitants or roommates;
  • Co-parent to a child in common;
  • Blood relatives through a child;
  • Romantic or dating partners;
  • Personal assistant or caregiver.

Concerning romantic or dating relationships, specifically, there is an important limitation. Casual or ordinary interactions in either business or social contexts do not usually constitute a romantic or dating relationship. 

How Does Illinois Punish Domestic Battery?

Section 12-3.2 also establishes the Illinois punishment for domestic battery. At a minimum, domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor. The Illinois punishment for this Class A misdemeanor can include a maximum of 12 months in jail and $2,500 in criminal fines. 

That being said, the punishment for domestic battery becomes more severe for repeat offenders. For example:

  • Second or Third Offense — Domestic battery becomes a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by imprisonment for one to three years and criminal fines up to $25,000;
  • Fourth Offense — Domestic battery becomes a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and criminal fines up to $25,000; or
  • Fifth or Subsequent Offense — Domestic battery becomes a Class 2 felony, which is punishable by imprisonment for three to seven years and criminal fines of up to $25,000.

For the purposes of repeat domestic battery offenders, there are many crimes that can qualify. Any prior conviction for domestic battery, or a substantially similar offense, can trigger the enhanced charges and penalties above. Similarly, a prior conviction for other violent crimes — such as murder, criminal sexual assault, kidnapping, or similar offenses — can lead to felony charges under Illinois law. 

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the criminal offense is, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at, or by completing an online form.