Electronic Monitoring in the Future for Domestic Crime Defendants

When it comes to law enforcement, most citizens would agree that they ought to have some right to privacy. However, when an individual who has committed a crime and seems likely to offend again, should his/her rights be revoked? A new law taking effect January 1st suggests they should.

The law—which will increase the use of electronic monitoring on defendant’s on bail for domestic abuse crimes—adds some pressure on judges to make more thorough and careful risk assessment, determining a defendant’s state of mind when deciding on the terms of his bail. This assessment will then justify whether electronic monitoring of the defendant is necessary to protect potential victims. While judges already had the ability to prescribe this type of surveillance as a condition of bail, this risk assessment is expected to prompt much more use of that measure.

Monitoring of domestic crime offenders may also be increased through the use of GPS tracking. This may help reinforce existing restraining orders, as they often seem ineffective on their own in preventing the same individual from repeating similar, if not more severe crimes.

As is often the case when it comes to surveillance, critics of the new law argue that it strips away common freedoms from those accused of domestic crime. Indeed, if a defendant were falsely accused, or falsely assessed by the judge as a risk, he may have to live with restricted rights without reason. And certainly, this seems an extreme measure for low level crime. However, Rep. Barbara Wheeler of Crystal Lake, who proposed the bill, points to extreme situations as requiring this enhanced level of protection. Like many laws, if it is used well, it will mean well.

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