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Illinois Increases Penalties For Assaulting Retail Workers Over Mask Policies

 Posted on August 14, 2020 in Criminal Law

By now you’ve probably seen at least one video where an employee is verbally or physically assaulted – or worse – by a patron after the employee tells them of the store’s mask policy. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many large and smaller retailers are trying to do their part to slow the spread of their virus, and some individuals feel that a private business enforcing a mask mandate is a violation of their civil rights. Those patrons are free to choose to shop elsewhere if they don’t want to wear a mask, but what they aren’t free to do is assault an employee who is trying to get them to acquiesce to the store’s mask policy.

With a recent law change, Illinois has spoken up for worker protections and ensured that individuals who want to get angry over a mask policy will think twice about taking their frustrations out on an employee. Under the new law, anyone who commits assault or battery against a retail worker who is communicating a public health guidance will be charged with aggravated battery, oftentimes pursued as a felony here in Illinois.

Felony Battery In Illinois

Aggravated battery is the enhanced form of battery, and typically it involves great bodily harm, a weapon or is against a protected class of individuals, however, it’s worth noting that physical harm is not required for aggravated battery to exist. Actions taken in an “insulting or provoking nature,” can reach the level of battery, and if they occur against a retail worker, all of a sudden a felony charge may appear. In this instance, a retail worker communicating a public health guidance (like informing a patron about a mask requirement) is now considered a protected class of individuals. Therefore, any assault or battery of this individual can be charged under the aggravated form of the law.

As you might have guessed, Illinois doesn’t look down lightly on aggravated battery charges. If a person is convicted of aggravated battery, they can face up to 2-5 years in prison and fines up to $25,000. These penalties can increase depending on relevant factors, like whether a weapon was used in the commission of a crime or if the offender has similar convictions on their record. If these factors are present, the offender could face up to 10 years in prison and even stiffer fines.

Under the old law, the attack would likely have been pursued as a simple battery charge, which carries the potential penalties of up to one year in prison and fines up to $2,500. Those penalties aren’t nothing, but at the same time, it’s unlikely a judge would impose anything close to the maximum penalties for a first offense misdemeanor charge, so the upgraded law really increases the penalty prospects.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the passage of the law “sends the message that it’s vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines.”

If you let your emotions get the best of you and are now facing a felony charge for your actions in a store, you need to lawyer up, because as you can see, the penalties can and will be severe. For help with your aggravated battery charge or any criminal offense in Illinois, reach out to the experienced legal team at Appelman Law today.

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