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Animal cruelty and FBI tracking

Illinois animal lovers may be interested in learning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will begin tracking animal cruelty felonies along with other felonies the agency already tracks. This will provide statistical data for instances of animal cruelty and allow a better focus on this type of offense.

Aggravated animal cruelty is a fourth-degree felony in Illinois, as are subsequent instances of misdemeanor-level animal cruelty offense in the state. Other crimes that the FBI tracks include offenses such as arson, homicide, assault and burglary.

The FBI indicates it believes that people who commit animal cruelty offenses often move on to commit more serious crimes. The addition of tracking animal cruelty came after lobbying efforts by law enforcement agencies for its inclusion. Previously, animal cruelty was included in the crime category of "all other offenses," which didn't allow a clear picture of how prevalent the offense is. The initial data will be published in 2017, but the agency indicates looking at the data over a three- to five-year period will provide a better overall picture of the pattern of animal cruelty in the U.S.

Felony charges may expose those who are convicted to potentially long prison sentences, depending on the particular charge and level of offense. People who are charged may want to get the assistance of an attorney as quickly as possible. A criminal defense attorney may in some cases center a defense strategy on challenging the constitutionality of how some of the evidence was collected. An attorney may also conduct an investigation in order to discredit other parts of the prosecution's case.

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