‘Bischof Law’ plan takes effect in Kane County

By on May 14, 2009

On May 1, the Kane County Circuit Court, launched a GPS-based offender tracking system in accordance with the Cindy Bischof Law, in a coordinated effort with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Kane County Circuit Clerk of Courts and Kane County Adult Court Services.

The complex law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2009, is designed to provide an early warning to domestic violence victims who might be at risk for serious physical harm or worse.

The law, introduced in the Illinois Senate in April 2008 and signed into law in August 2008, was an unfunded mandate from the state that had specific demands but offered limited guidance for implementation. The burden was placed on local courts and law enforcement to create and fund a workable plan.

To develop a workable plan, Judge F. Keith Brown, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, called upon Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti and Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Accardi, First Chair of the office’s Domestic Violence Division; Deb Seyller, the 16th Judicial Circuit Court Clerk; Jim Mueller, Director of Kane County Adult Court Services, and John Owens and Mary Hyatt of Kane County Adult Court Services, to collaborate.

After a cost was determined, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay was asked for $6.45 per GPS unit per day not to exceed $100,000 annually to fund the program. McConnaughay and the board approved the allocation.

The Bischof Law modified the bail bond statute. It dictates that any person charged with violation of an order of protection must complete a risk assessment, also known as a lethality assessment, to determine risk of recidivism, among other things.

Here’s how the process works in Kane County:

The offender
An offender charged with violating an order of protection-a court order that prohibits the defendant from having contact with the person or persons named in the order-will be ordered at bond call to undergo the risk assessment, which will be administered by the Kane County Diagnostic Center. The court will use the results of the risk assessment and a further court hearing to determine whether the offender should be ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor as a condition of bond.

The technology
The GPS unit is active 24 hours a day. It sends a constant signal to a third party, Alpharette, Ga.-based Omnilink Systems, www.omnilink.com, meaning the offender’s location is monitored 24 hours a day. The court will also order that as a condition of bond, the offender must adhere to the original order of protection and avoid any contact with the victim or protected individuals under the order of protection. The court also can set exclusion zones, such as the victim’s residence or place of employment, daycare, etc., and order that the offender remain at least 1,000 feet away from those zones. The court also can set an additional 500-foot buffer zone around the exclusion zone, meaning the offender cannot be within 1,500 feet of any protected address as listed on the conditions of bond. Further, the offender cannot have any contact, direct or indirect, with the victim as a condition of the GPS bond terms.

The breach
If an offender breaches the protected zone, Omnilink will receive real-time notification in its monitoring center. Omnilink monitoring personnel will be able to view a map of the offender’s exact location, as well as the details of the offender’s conditions of bond, such as the exclusion zones, buffer zones, protected addresses and individuals, etc.
Omnilink then will contact Kane County emergency dispatch centers in the area of the victim and the offender. The victim also will be notified of the breach. The dispatch centers then will relay this information to police officers, who will respond to the call.
In addition, the officers and police departments can access the same map to show the offender’s location and movements in real time, as well as the buffer and exclusion zone information, victim information, and a photo of the offender. The officers will be directed to the area of the breach.

The consequences
Upon making contact with an offender once a breach has occurred, the offender can be subject to a number of criminal charges. Depending on the terms of the order of protection, an offender may be charged with a new offense of violation of an order of protection. He or she also can be charged with violation of bail bond with a family or household member, a Class A misdemeanor that requires the offender to appear before a judge for setting of bond. If an offender tampers with the GPS unit in an attempt to damage or remove it, he or she may be charged with criminal damage to state supported property, a Class 4 felony.