The new court created on June 1, 2016 requires all persons charged with a host of charges involving alleged domestic violence are subject to special bond conditions. The main differences between DVAC and regular felony court are:
All offenders must obtain an anger management evaluation.
All offenders must participate successfully in anger management treatment during the pendency of their case.
All offenders must attend court on an average of one time every two weeks.
The problem as I see it is that the "offenders" are merely persons charged with offenses subjecting them to DVAC. DVAC was created with money received from a grant. The court therefore has a motivation to put as many persons in DVAC as possible so they can justify the continuation of it and ensure a continued flow of supporting monies. If the number of persons placed in DVAC drops to an unacceptable level the funds will disappear. The motivation of both the States Attorney and Court to place a large amount of offenders into this program is driven by the desire to obtain funds. This main problem raises other problems such as requiring ALL persons to comply with the evaluation and treatment program as a bond condition.
Normally bond conditions are imposed after the presiding judge entertains a motion by the State after good consideration is given for said condition. DVAC conditions are imposed without any individual determination. In fact the Court must presume the offender poses a risk to another and must undergo the evaluation and treatment in every case without any type of individualized assessment. In other words the Court is presuming all offenders pose a risk without knowing anything about their case. I anticipate this court will continue to operate until one person attacks it through an appeal. The information I have received about this court is that only one other county in Illinois aside from Madison County uses this type of court. Neither court has been attacked on appeal.
Another problem is the manner in which DVAC is conducted. As I stated above this court is held on its own separate docket. Typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Normal felony dockets are on Monday and Friday. This creates more time expended by defense counsel as they have to attend separate dockets for their clients. This in turn creates higher fees that must be charged to the client. The evaluation and classes cost money that each client must absorb. And, the client must take off from work far more often than is otherwise required for persons charged with more serious crimes such as drug trafficking or attempted murder. I believe DVAC is structured this way to push the client to accept a plea negotiation that he/she would normally not accept. In other words I believe people in DVAC are compelled to plead guilty to offenses due to the additional time and money constraints placed upon them by this court. For that reason alone DVAC seems to violate one's due process rights.
The States Attorney assigned to each case is supposed to carefully evaluate each case before charging the offender. My experience is that the two attorneys assigned this court from the State have very little actual experience with the cases. Therefore, their judgment is not quite what it needs to prevent weak or unprovable cases from being filed. I personally represented a client a few months ago where the facts against him did not justify any criminal charge. Nonetheless he was charged, required to post $2,500 bond, had to obtain an evaluation, and had to comply with classes for three months until we got his case dismissed. The manner in which DVAC is run assumes the offender guilty prior to an adjudication of guilt.
An update to the previous blog: The DVAC docket continues to grow at an extreme pace. The dockets have become very congested as many persons demand jury trials instead of pleading guilty. Many of the cases, either through design or otherwise, are seriously overcharged. This means that what would have been a misdemeanor Domestic Battery charge are now frequently charged as felony versions. This may be a method to overexaggerate numbers of clients facing DVAC. I personally have set three jury trials over the next two months for clients who have themselves been victimized by their girlfriends (who were under the influence). We will find out how the courts contend with the ever growing number of cases on the DVAC docket.
If you are charged with a qualifying offense and are subjected to DVAC be prepared to spend quite a bit of time attending court and classes prior to the case being resolved.