(UPDATE:  On January 20, 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the Ward case below to the extent that the Ward case looked at whether contact was insulting or provoking from the victim’s point of view.  Instead, A judge or jury must determine whether a reasonable person would think the contact was insulting or provoking.)

Not necessarily. A recent Illinois case has clarified that your physical contact must be insulting or provoking to the victim, not a third party.

Under 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2, you commit domestic battery if you knowingly without legal justification by any means: (1) cause bodily harm to any family or household member; or (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with any family or household member.

In People v. Ward, the defendant pushed his wife aside and told her to “shut up” while arguing with police at an accident scene involving defendant’s son. The witness who had been rear-ended by defendant’s son was offended, but not defendant’s wife. While a victim need not testify and may even deny being insulted, the state had to present some evidence that the victim was offended. For example the state can show testimony as to how the wife reacted immediately after the push. As a result defendant’s conviction was reversed.

If you have been charged with domestic battery, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not try to talk yourself out of this offense. You may only dig yourself in deeper. Different judges may view the evidence against you very differently. An experienced attorney who is familiar with the courthouse may be able to present your defense in its most favorable light.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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