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Trial Court's Overly Broad Reading of 'Ambiguous' Domestic Violence Protection Order Leads to Overturned Conviction

A man convicted of violating a domestic violence protection order successfully persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court to throw out that conviction due to flaws both with the order and with his trial. The order was ambiguous and confusing, but the statute governing "stay away" orders like the one issued in this case requires the state to prove that the abuser came impermissibly close to the victim (or his or her residence) and did so intentionally, neither of which the state proved.

A man convicted of violating a domestic violence protection order successfully persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court to throw out that conviction due to flaws both with the order and with his trial. The order was ambiguous and confusing, but the statute governing "stay away" orders like the one issued in this case requires the state to prove that the abuser came impermissibly close to the victim (or his or her residence) and did so intentionally, neither of which the state proved.

In the fall of 2012, a trial court entered an order of protection requiring Michael Gabriel to stay 1,000 feet away from Rilee Nichols' residence, as well as the College of DuPage, where both Gabriel and Nichols were students. Only 11 days later, a college police officer pulled over a Pontiac for a registration violation and discovered Gabriel behind the wheel. Upon discovering the existence of the order of protection, the officer arrested Gabriel for violating the order.

At trial, Gabriel argued that the order only required him to stay away from the college whenever Nichols was there, and the state put on no evidence that the woman was on (or anywhere near) campus when the officer pulled him over. The state, however, argued that the order required Gabriel to stay away from the college at all times. The trial court found Gabriel guilty and sentenced him to 12 months supervision.

The man, however, was more successful on appeal. The appeals court concluded that the trial court's interpretation of the order of protection - namely, that Gabriel was forbidden from coming within 1,000 feet of campus regardless of Nichols' presence - was too broad.

Part of the problem was within the order of protection itself, which the appeals court characterized as "confusing at best." However, even with the order of protection's lack of clarity, the trial court's interpretation of it was legally invalid. The court that issued the order of protection did so under the statutory authority of Section 214(b)(3) of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. That section authorizes courts to order abusers to stay a certain distance away from their victims and their residences. The statute's authority would only extend to a public place, such as the victim's school, if the victim was present at that location.

Based upon this interpretation, the man's conviction fell apart because the state did not prove that the woman was on campus when Gabriel was stopped. The state also failed to prove that Gabriel intended to be on campus at a time when Nichols was there. This was also necessary because the crime of violating an order of protection requires the state not only to show that the abuser violated the order, but that he or she intended to do so.

While the entry of a domestic violence order against you is a serious matter, being convicted of violating an order of protection is far more serious and should be addressed aggressively. For advice and representation on your order of protection case, contact the DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent about your DUI case. Our attorneys can help you contest your violation charge and put on the best possible defense.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

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