Illinois state Representative Barbara Wheeler recently proposed Illinois House Bill 3744 in an effort to provide greater protection to victims of domestic violence by requiring for a defendant who has been charged with a violent crime to undergo a risk assessment evaluation. The results of this risk assessment evaluation, as evaluated by the Illinois Department of Human Services, will determine whether, as a condition of bail, the defendant might be forced to wear a Global Positioning System (GPS) ankle bracelet. The GPS device will be used to monitor violent offenders 24 hours a day during the pretrial phase, and is meant to keep abusers a safe distance from their victims. The new law may prove critical for local residents in the midst of a tumultuous divorce where domestic violence is at issue.This new House Bill proposed would be an extension to the already in place Cindy Bischof law, which requires that the offender need to have violated an existing order of protection before a judge may order the defendant to wear any type of electronic tracking device. The Cindy Bischof law went into effect on January 1, 2009, after the tragic death of Cindy Bischof. Bischof was shot and killed in a parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, who had already been arrested and prosecuted for violating his restraining order on more than one occasion. House Bill 3744 would allow a judge, based on the facts specific to the case, to order the defendant to wear a GPS device, regardless of whether an order of protection had been submitted. Once a defendant was ordered to wear an electronic tracking device, specific “exclusion zones” would be set up around the victim's home, work, or other areas where the offender is barred from entering. In addition, the victim could also wear a GPS device to ensure that, even if he or she is out of the exclusion zone, the defendant would not be allowed to come close to the victim. Findings of the U.S. Department of Justice In a study published by the U.S. Department of Justice in June 2012, the findings showed that the use of GPS-tracking devices had an overall positive impact with regard to protection of the victim, but also protection for the defendant. Overall, the GPS effectively provided teeth to existing restraining orders. In the short term, there was a lower likelihood that the defendant would violate curfew and other program requirements. In the long term, the GPS decreased the likelihood of arrest for domestic violence offenses. Defendants had a mixed reaction to the use of the GPS technology; some were frustrated by the program confinements, such as curfew and exclusion zones, while others appreciated that they could maintain their employment during the pretrial time period, and the GPS had the possibility of shielding them from false accusations. Though victims were apprehensive about their abusers roaming the streets, many felt more comforted knowing that the abusers were unable to get close or stalk them at their residences or work sites. The one problem that was encountered by the GPS-tracking was, though it could limit the abuser's physical proximity to the victim, the technology could not halt any other types of communication, such as text message, emails, or phone calls. Though this House Bill is still on the House floor and has not passed yet, victims of domestic violence have options. One possibility is to request an order of protection, a court order that prohibits the abuser from, among others:
- Entering shared residences or the victim's residence;
- Getting in the same physical proximity to victims and/or other persons protected by the order, such as family members or members of the victim's household.
- Going to the victim's workplace, school, or other areas where the victim frequents.
- Hiding a child from the victim or taking the child out of state.