Victims of domestic violence have basic legal rights and protections under the law after an abuser is charged. They include:
1. The Right to Attend and Participate in Criminal Justice Proceedings
Unless called to testify, the victim may attend the trial of the abuser as well as sentencing and/or parole hearings. Victims of violent crimes are also allowed to make an oral or written statement to be considered during parole hearings.
2. The Right to be Notified of Criminal Proceedings
Victims are entitled to advance notice of scheduled court proceedings, particularly those that might result in a lowering of the defendant’s bond or his
release from custody. They also are entitled to notice of cancelled court proceedings, wherever possible, to avoid unnecessary court appearances.
3. The Right to Protection from the Abuser
Victims have the right to protection from intimidation and harassment by the offender or the offender’s family or associates. If you are threatened, intimidated or bribed to testify untruthfully, forget facts, or make yourself unavailable as a witness, report it immediately to law enforcement.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, you have the right to request an Emergency Order of Protection through the Clerk of the Circuit Court. This legally enforceable court order, which is issued by a judge, may require your abuser to stay away from you. He may face criminal charges for violating the order. You also are entitled to an escort to and from court if it is necessary for your protection.
4. The Right to Notification of Employer and Creditors
At your request, the State’s Attorney’s Office or police department will inform your employer that your cooperation in their investigation and prosecution of a
domestic abuse case may necessitate your absence from work. Your employer cannot penalize you. At your request, the State’s Attorney’s Office or the police department also can contact your creditors to seek their consideration if you are temporarily unable to continue payments as a result of the crime. Credit card companies sometimes are willing to suspend interest and payments if notified of the situation by an authority.
5. The Right to Confidentiality of Records
Police and certain court records are not public if they involve a juvenile or if the case deals with sexual assault and rape. Police reports are not available to the public while the case is pending. Police and certain court records usually are only available to the attorneys and parties involved in the case.
6. The Right to a Timely Resolution of Your Case
Under the Illinois Crime Victims Bill of Rights, you have a right “to the timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused.” The State’s Attorney’s Office will do everything in its power to ensure a case is thoroughly investigated for a trial and that there are no unwarranted delays in the proceedings that would jeopardize your rights or those of the accused.
7. The Right to Prompt Return of Your Property
Any of your personal property that was stolen by the accused and seized by police as evidence in the criminal case should be returned as quickly as possible as allowed by law. These items may include photos, clothing, recordings, letters, etc.
8. The Right to Compensation and Restitution
The State of Illinois has compensation programs designed to provide financial assistance to qualifying victims. In some cases, compensation also may be provided to family members and other eligible persons. To qualify, you must have suffered actual physical harm or some other tangible loss.
You should keep track of your losses, such as destroyed or stolen property or the cost of any medical treatment, including mental health counseling that
resulted from the abuser’s actions. You must fully cooperate with police and the State’s Attorney’s Office in their efforts to qualify you for compensation.
Restitution typically is ordered during a sentencing hearing. The judge orders the offender to pay for the financial losses you have suffered as a result of the abuse. In the event a minor has witnessed acts of domestic violence, offenders also can be ordered by the judge to pay for counseling for the child. A civil lawsuit is required to recover punitive damages.