Friday, January 1, 2010

New Illinois laws intended to strengthen DV, stalking, sex assault protection

By Megan Twohey Tribune reporter

Victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault have new legal protections available to them in Illinois starting Friday. Most significant, experts said, are the 2010 state laws to combat stalking, a crime that affects an estimated 3.4 million Americans.

"Historically, stalking victims in Illinois haven't been able to get a lot of help," said Dawn Dalton, executive director of Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network. "With the new laws, it will be easier to prosecute stalkers and easier for victims to protect themselves."

Before, stalking victims had to prove they suffered two separate incidents of following or surveillance and a threat of bodily harm in order to seek a prosecution. Starting this year, victims must prove only that the stalker committed at least two acts that would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety or suffer emotional distress. (Such acts can include following or surveilling the victim, interfering with the victim's property, or delivering an unwanted object to the victim.)

Cyber-stalking is now defined as at least two acts involving electronic communication that produce the same effect. And for the first time, victims will be able to obtain a civil court order to keep the stalker away no matter the stalker's identity. In the past, victims could only get such a protective order if the stalker was a former lover or household member or had already attacked them.

"This is a huge step," said Sgt. Brett Wisnauski of the Algonquin Police Department. "The new stalking no-contact order should be tremendously helpful."

Another type of civil no-contact order -- this one specifically for victims of sexual assault -- has undergone reforms. Victims of sexual assault can now get a protective order not only against the person who committed the assault, but also against any third party who "aided and abetted" in it. Under the new law, they also can obtain protection for family or other household members. The law makes clear that victims can provide testimony in chambers if doing so in open court may result in serious emotional distress.

And, in sexual assault cases involving elementary, middle or high school students, the judge can order the offender to transfer to another school.

"We hope this law strengthens protections and clears up some confusion," said Neha Lall, an attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. "The civil no-contact order for victims of sexual assault has been around for five years, and judges don't have a solid understanding of it because they don't see it very often."

Other noteworthy changes taking effect Friday:

--The Illinois State Police will be required to deny or revoke a firearm owner's identification card when the owner is subject to a domestic violence order of protection.

--The Illinois Department of Corrections must issue a warrant for the arrest of any parolee charged with domestic violence or stalking, and anyone convicted of these crimes must be supervised by a parole agent who has completed at least 40 hours of domestic violence training.

--Strangulation of a family or household member will be considered aggravated domestic battery, a class 2 felony requiring at least 60 days in prison.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think its wonderful they have updated the stalking no contact orders. My question is we currantly have a stalking no contact order that was extended for a year it iis up in May of this year. As of right now the stalker has left us alone for the most part. I say for the most part as there has been no direct contact but there has been indirect contact that was reported to the local PD which says they can not arrest the stalker due to no evidence. So my concern is when this order is up if this person desides to continue where he left off what can happen? Do we have to wait again for 2 episodes to happen? By the way this is with minors and the stalker was arrested for disorderly conduct but to aviod conviction on his record did counsleing ect. it was shortly after the stalker had completed this that he was talking to friends at school where my son overheard that he was wanting to contact my daughter again. Like I said the school has been made aware and we got the run around there that nothing they could /would do and the police dept just made a report of the incodent but because of no proof of this stalker saying what my son overheard nothing they could do but make a report. So what happens when this order expires??? Will this kid get arrested the first time he tries something else??? just to give you background this stalker had not only sent imagines of himself exposed but convinced my then 11yr old to send picts. Threats if cant have her will take her and kill her and then himself if can't be together, threats of coming over with knife and finishing this all with us her parents so that he can see her. That he sant help himself that if he dont hurt himself he will hurt soemone else. this person was only 14 at the time but is obviously not in his right mind so we are worried what will happen when this order expires?? We dont have any justification to have the order extended since no further incodences have happened but I fear that they will and that next time there will be no time for another order. Any imput would be greatly appriciated