In April 2013, petitioner, Julie Ann Julie, filed a petition for an emergency order of protection against respondent, Joseph John Joe III, pursuant to section 214 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 (Act) (750 ILCS 60/214 (West 2012)).
Julie’s petition for an emergency order of protection alleged that Joe :
- Threatened her when he was mad,
- Installed an application on her phone to monitor her activity,
- Would not let her get a job,
- Controlled her access to money, and
- In April 2009, hurt her wrist and arm and forced her to have sex with him.
She also sought protection for her and Joe’s four young children. The trial court granted her request and entered an emergency order of protection.
Wife’s Plenary Order of Protection Granted
In October 2013, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine whether to grant a plenary order of protection (order of protection for 2 years). Julie testified that Joe’s business partner, Tom Fazy, was murdered and that Joe confessed to Julie that he had hired someone to commit the murder. Tom Fazy was murdered in December 2004 at his office in Midlothian, Illinois. Julie said that in February 2005, Joe told Julie that he had someone murder Fazy and provided the name of the hitman. Joe warned Julie that if she told anyone that he was involved in the murder of Fazy, he would hurt her or their then three-year-old son.
Joe and Julie left Illinois and went to Florida. Julie explained that, while in Florida, Joe frequently threatened her whenever he became angry and would say that she knew what he was capable of doing, that he killed before and had no problem killing again. Julie testified to that and to multiple acts of other violence against her. She testified that she was afraid to leave him and that if she did, he would kill her. She testified that Joe continued to threaten her life.
Joe testified that he never threatened Julie’s life. He denied confessing to anyone that he had his business partner murdered. Joe called both of his parents to testify. Both parents reported that they had never seen Joe exhibit abusive behaviors. Following closing arguments, the trial court explained its findings of fact and concluded that the allegations in the petition had been proven. The trial court entered a plenary order of protection that contained an expiration date of October 25, 2015.
Petition to Extend the Order Indefinitely
In September 2015, Julie filed her own petition without an attorney and requested a hearing to extend the plenary order of protection for an indefinite amount of time. In support of her request, she asserted that she remained fearful for her safety and the safety of her children.
In November 2015, when the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion to extend the plenary order of protection, Joe failed to appear. The court noted that Joe had been served with a summons, found that he was in default, and extended the plenary order of protection indefinitely. Shortly thereafter, the Manatee County, Florida, sheriff’s office served Joe with a copy of the extended plenary order of protection.
Ex-Husband Seeks to Terminate the Protection Order
In October 2019, Joe filed a motion to terminate the plenary order of protection, alleging that the Act does not provide for an indefinite extension of a plenary order of protection. In January 2020, the trial court conducted a hearing on Joe’s motion and denied it, concluding that plenary orders of protection can be extended for an indefinite period. Joe appealed, arguing that (1) the Act limits the duration for extensions of plenary orders of protection to two years, (2) the trial court erred by granting Julie’s request for an extension of the plenary order because no good cause was shown, and (3) section 220 of the Act is unconstitutionally vague. The Appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Purpose of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act
The purposes of the Domestic Violence Act include supporting the efforts of victims of domestic violence to avoid further abuse by reducing an abuser’s access to the victim so that victims are not trapped in abusive situations by fear of retaliation. The Act states that a plenary order of protection entered under this Act shall be valid for a fixed period of time, not to exceed two years.” Subsection (e) further states, “Any plenary order may be extended one or more times § 220(e). The statute continues, stating, “An extension of a plenary order of protection may be granted, upon good cause shown, to remain in effect until the order of protection is vacated or modified.”
No Time Limit Exists for an Extension
The Act provides for an indefinite extension of a plenary order of protection. Although the initial plenary order of protection had a specific time limit of two years, no time limit exists for an extension of such an order. Instead, the Act specifically states that, upon good cause shown, the extension may “remain in effect until the order of protection is vacated or modified.” This language also stands in stark contrast to the language limiting the initial plenary order of protection to not “exceed two years.” Joe argues on appeal that because section 220(b)(0.05) of the Act states, “a plenary order of protection entered under this Act shall be valid for a fixed period of time, not to exceed two years,” that this extension also cannot exceed two years.
The Act permits courts to indefinitely extend plenary orders of protection. Joe is allowed to file a motion to vacate or modify the order if he chooses. Julie however, testified that there were no material changes since the original entry of the plenary order of protection. Joe argues that the statute is confusing or contradictory because one portion of it says the duration of a plenary order of protection is not to exceed two years but another portion states that extensions may be of an indefinite duration until vacated or modified.
Joe contends that “a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence may interpret that an extension of a plenary order of protection is still a plenary order of protection, and therefore shall have a limit not to exceed two years.”
The Appellate court ruled that this is not the standard. If the fact that a reasonable person “may interpret” the statute incorrectly was all it took for a statute to be unconstitutionally vague, then almost any statute could be deemed unconstitutionally vague. The real standard is whether a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence has a reasonable opportunity to understand what the statute provides. Judged in accordance with the correct standard, the Appellate court concluded that the statute easily passes constitutional muster, and the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. Dale v. Bennett, 2021 IL App (4th) 200188 (March 3, 2021)