New Law Prevents Domestic Violence Calls from Leading to Eviction

In the last several years, neighborhoods and towns around Illinois and throughout the country have been enacted laws intended to reduce crime. Some of them, however, have had serious unintended consequences, particularly for victims of domestic violence. Presumably designed to make cities safer, these laws, known as “crime-free” or “nuisance property” ordinances impose fines and penalties, up to including eviction, on landlords and tenants who attract a certain level of police or law enforcement attention. Last month, though, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a measure that prevents local authorities from punishing tenants who require police assistance for sexual or domestic violence situations.

Noble Aims and Unintended Consequences

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 100 cities and towns in Illinois have some form of a nuisance ordinance currently in effect. Nearly 40 of them directly punish tenants and landlords for too many calls to the police, regardless of the activity in question. To be fair, many municipalities have never applied the ordinances to domestic violence calls, or at least they claim they have not. Oak Forest Police Chief Gregory Anderson insists that his department does not punish those who truly need help, but that the ordinance has been a tremendous help in reducing drug-related crime.
Other towns, however, seem to have a bigger problem. In many cases, domestic violence victims were left with a serious dilemma: call the police, get help, and risk being evicted; or remain silent and continue being victimized. The fear of losing their homes was, in fact, causing the opposite effect than that intended by the ordinance. Instead of reducing crime, the laws were leading to the underreporting of sexual and domestic violence.

Bipartisan Efforts for Change

The push to amend existing nuisance ordinances was led in various communities by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois. The effort was spearheaded in the Illinois legislature by Senator Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, and quickly gathered support on both sides of the aisle. Senate Bill 1547 was drafted to exclude sexual violence, domestic violence, and concerns related to persons with disabilities from any crime-free or nuisance property laws in the state. Landlords and tenants could still face penalties for excessive law enforcement calls, but not those “made with the intent to prevent or respond to domestic violence or sexual violence.”
The measure passed both the House and Senate without significant opposition earlier this year and was signed by the governor in August. The new law goes into full effect on November 19, and local authorities around the state have begun amending their policies.

Trustworthy Defense Lawyer

While calling the police regarding domestic violence can no longer get you evicted in Illinois, it could lead to criminal charges. If you have been accused of domestic violence, you deserve representation from a lawyer who is committed to protecting your rights. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today. Schedule your free consultation by calling 815-740-4025.

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