Domestic Violence Sentencing Consideration

domestic-violence-victimA law in Illinois that helps victims of domestic violence who are convicted of criminal offenses took effect at the beginning of the year. Under the new law, being a victim of domestic abuse constitutes a mitigating factor that courts must take into account at sentencing.

Mitigating Sentencing Factors

In a criminal defendant’s sentencing in Illinois, the court is required to consider several factors, which, if they exist, weigh in favor of withholding or minimizing a defendant’s sentence of imprisonment. These mitigating factors include considerations such as:

  • The lack of serious physical harm or intent to injure;
  • Provocation;
  • Inducement to commit the crime;
  • The existence of grounds to excuse or justify a defendant’s actions;
  • A defendant having compensated the victims for their losses;
  • A lack of criminal history;
  • A low likelihood that the criminal conduct will recur;
  • A high likelihood that a defendant would comply with the terms of probation;
  • Imprisonment would cause excessive hardship to a defendant’s dependents;
  • A defendant’s medical conditions;
  • Intellectual disability; or
  • A defendant who sought emergency medical assistance for a drug overdose and was convicted of a drug crime.

Then, if the court finds that imprisonment is the most appropriate sentence, or if the criminal statute mandates imprisonment, the court must consider the above factors in mitigation of the proposed sentence.

The new law adds another mitigating factor to the list. If a defendant had been, at the time of sentencing, a victim of domestic violence, the court must consider whether the effects of the violence tend to excuse or justify the criminal behavior.


In some circumstances, a person convicted of a crime may petition the court for re-sentencing if he or she was not able to present mitigating evidence of domestic violence at trial. If:

  • The defendant was convicted of a forcible felony;
  • The crime was related to a prior instance of domestic violence committed by a spouse, former spouse, person with whom he or she had a dating relationship, or co-parent to a child;
  • No evidence of domestic violence was presented at the first sentencing hearing;
  • The defendant, at the time of the first sentencing, was not aware of the mitigating nature of domestic abuse evidence; and
  • The new domestic violence evidence is not repetitive and would likely alter the original sentence;

Then the defendant may move that the court review his or her petition for re-sentencing and consider the new evidence of domestic abuse.


The new law is designed to let victims of domestic abuse get the help they need, not to let individuals commit crimes while escaping punishment. Suffering from domestic abuse is one of the biggest triggers for crime, and a significant predictor of future violence. The new law is intended to recognize the causes of crime and acknowledge the context of a defendant’s criminal behavior when imposing a sentence.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence and have been charged with a crime, it is essential to retain the services of an experienced attorney who can present all mitigating factors at your sentencing hearing and try to get your sentence reduced. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to discuss your case.