Illinois Law Protects Referees From Assault

illinois sports officials lawInterscholastic and youth sports serve a number of purposes for those who participate in them. Boys and girls can learn a great deal from being part of a team, including self-discipline, sportsmanship, and the importance of fair play, in addition to the benefits of increased exercise. Unfortunately, parents and coaches often lose sight of the true goals of youth and school sports as they become all but obsessed with the scoreboard and perceived slights on the court or field. In extreme cases, spectators, coaches, and even players may become so irate that they behave violently toward referees, umpires, and other officials. It is important to understand the risks of such behavior, as the penalties for attacking a sports official in Illinois can be severe.

Struggling With Sportsmanship

When a referee or umpire steps onto the field or court, he or she understands that players, spectators, and coaches will not agree with all of his or her calls. It is simply the nature of sports. Disagreement is one thing, but nearly every official has stories about parents or coaches getting too personal in expressing their displeasure with a call or ruling. It has gotten so bad in some regions that scholastic and recreational leagues are now struggling to find officials who are willing to tolerate the verbal abuse—often from people who do not know the rules themselves.

Things have gotten so bad that one NCAA basketball official recently filed a lawsuit against a media company whose radio broadcasters shared the official’s personal and business contact information during a game. Fans of the losing team allegedly used that information to harass the official’s business, and at least seven individuals threatened the man himself, according to reports.

Extreme Examples

In recent years, there have been a number of situations that went beyond insulting words and abusive language. Youth football parents and coaches have come onto the field to attack officials, basketball players have tackled referees, and soccer players have thrown punches. In two separate incidents —one in Utah and one in Michigan—soccer officials died after being punched for calls made on the field.

The Law in Illinois

Fortunately, there have not been many publicized accounts of officials being physically attacked in Illinois over the last few years. Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to the state’s criminal statute that specifically addresses violence against referees and umpires. An individual may face charges of aggravated assault for violent or threatening behavior against “a sports official or coach actively participating in any level of athletic competition within a sports venue, on an indoor playing field or outdoor playing field, or within the immediate vicinity of such a facility or field.”

Assault against a sports official is a Class A misdemeanor, an offense that carries penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $2,500. Additional charges for battery could also apply if physical contact is made, leading to even more severe consequences.

Contact Us for Help

Whether directed against a sports official or not, assault charges are extremely serious. If you or a loved one has been charged, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

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