The Journal of The DuPage County Bar Association

Back Issues > Vol. 24 (2011-12)

Changes in the Cindy Bischof Law
by Bryan Thompson

The Cindy Bischof Act came into effect on January 1, 2009 as Public Act 095-0773[1]. It was named in memoriam for Cynthia Bischof, an Arlington Heights real estate broker who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend who defied an order of protection.[2] The main goal of the Act was to enhance protection for victims of domestic violence and create stronger deterrence for order of protection violators.[3]  This Act was necessary because of a number of deficiencies in the process by which orders of protection were enforced. Previously, there was no provision through which judges were able to place alleged offenders on electronic surveillance and assess risk for order of protection violators.  The Act attempted to remedy these issues in several ways by expanding the use of electronic surveillance of alleged offenders, increasing risk assessment methods, and by establishing new procedures for setting bail for order of protection violators.      

This article will first explore the contents of the original Act and the criticisms directed towards it, specifically provisions that made full implementation of the Act difficult. Then this article will discuss the amendment to the Cindy Bischof Act that was made in response to the criticisms.  Finally, there will be a discussion of possible future changes that may improve the Act.

The Original Legislation. There were several changes the Cindy Bischof Act made to the Illinois criminal code regarding orders of protection. The original legislation held that the court must order a person charged with violating an order of protection under Section 12-30 of the criminal code of 1961 to undergo a risk assessment evaluation at an “Illinois Department of Human Services protocol approved partner abuse intervention program.”[4] The Act also held that the court then had the option, as a condition of bail, to place the defendant under electronic surveillance by attaching a GPS tracker to the alleged violator of the order of protection.[5] The original Act further held that, if the defendant was then actually convicted of a violation of an order of protection, the court was required to place the defendant under electronic surveillance.[6]

Another major addition to the Illinois criminal code created by the original Cindy Bischof Act was that courts were required to assess an additional fine set at no less than $200.00. This fine was to be assessed to every penalty imposed during sentencing for a violation of an order of protection. The fine would then be sent to the state for placement in a special fund, the Domestic Violence Surveillance Fund.[7] The state was then to disburse the money to counties and other programs that were unable to fully fund their programs on their own.[8] This amount was to be assessed by the Circuit Clerk and was to be remitted to the state treasurer within one month after being levied.[9]          

The provisions embodied in the original Act were both positive and negative. While most people praised the spirit of the legislation, there was also a great deal of criticism, especially on the portions of the Act that required financial expenditures on the part of the counties.  Chief Judge of DuPage County, the Honorable Stephen J. Culliton said in his State of the Courthouse speech in 2009 that “the legislation provided for absolutely no funding of the required risk assessment nor any funding for the usage of any tracking devices. Nor did it take into account that it is virtually impossible to get a risk assessment prior to the constitutional requirement of bringing the defendant before a sitting judge for the purpose of setting bail.”[10] In essence, the Act was an unfunded mandate requiring risk assessments from a specific office without giving counties the funds to pay for them.[11] Clerks from impoverished circuits were loath to send money to the state, only to wait and hope they would see some of the money come back to pay for programs they were required to implement.[12]         

There were also other criticisms about possible violation of defendants’ right to due process, specifically due to the somewhat secretive nature of original order of protection hearings and the ability to accidentally violate orders of protection via the GPS tracker.[13] Additionally, the provision of the Act that allowed a judge to impose a GPS or other electronic monitoring device for a person who was simply charged with violating an order of protection could potentially be misused to deny a defendant the due process required by law.[14]

Changes To The Act. The Act was amended in 2009, and there have been several changes in this version that have helped alleviate some of the criticisms.  Public Act 096-0688 amended the original Act and created a twelve factor test to help determine the amount of bail and conditions of release.[15] The amendment also expanded the list of agencies that may conduct the risk assessment to include pretrial service, probation, or parole agencies in addition to the Illinois Department of Human Services approved partner abuse intervention program.[16] The amended Act also allows these agencies to have a summary of the defendants’ criminal history to assist in the risk evaluation and has mandated that the results of “any” risk evaluation conducted can be admitted in court.[17] The risk assessments are also no longer mandatory, but rather at the courts’ discretion.            

The amendment to the Act also eliminated the requirement that the Circuit Clerk send assessed fees to the treasury for placement in the Domestic Violence Surveillance Fund, and instead allows the county to pay all monies collected to the county treasurer for “deposit in the probation and court services fund.”[18] These funds can then be used to pay for GPS trackers for those who would not otherwise be able to afford them.[19] However, smaller counties with higher poverty rates may lack the funds to start with, hampering redistribution of monies to those unable to afford the GPS trackers.[20] So to some extent this problem still exists, despite the amendments to the Act.          

For example, in Stephenson County, it is estimated that the cost of each offender evaluation was approximately $300.00 plus additional expenses, which would cost the county nearly $15,000.00 per year simply for risk assessments.[21] For a county of 46,537 this could be a substantial expense not budgeted for prior to the approval of the law. [22] Due to the new amended version, it is now no longer mandated that the court use the risk assessment for bail hearings though the statute gives the judge twelve factors that may be used for setting bail even without the risk assessment.[23] However, this still means that judges in counties that do not have the funds for the risk assessments could be without valuable information which could potentially result in the deprivation of a defendant’s liberty, or an increase in risk for the holder of the order of protection.          

Some of these changes have appeased some of the criticism of the Act and earned it some, albeit tepid, praise. Chief Judge Honorable Stephen J. Culliton, in his State of the Courthouse address in 2010, followed up on the amendments to the Act calling them an “unfunded ‘non-mandate’” because “they have provided no funds for that which they have given us discretion to do or not to do.”[24] While Judge Culliton has said that the court is “making every attempt to comply with its suggestions and with the spirit of the law”[25] there is little doubt that the unfunded aspects of the law will have at least some effect on how many risk assessments are conducted, the breadth and depth of those risk assessments, and how they are integrated, especially in counties that are in more financial distress than DuPage.

Possible Changes Needed In The Law. While the law seems to be a definite step in the right direction, there are several problems that must be addressed in order for the law to be improved. First, there is the question of whether the risk assessment can delay the constitutionally required bond hearing. There is currently little evidence that conducting the risk assessments has caused any substantial delay in setting bail. This is likely the case for a county like DuPage, which is more populous and able to more easily find the resources and professionals to conduct the risk assessment. However, less populated and lower-income counties may be another story.  Data is not yet available to assess whether delays are occurring, but this remains an important question to be addressed. .          

Second, GPS tracking could potentially discriminate against low income people who are personally unable to afford the fees for the electronic surveillance monitoring.  The GPS system is run by a private contractor that collects the statutorily set fees from the defendants who are ordered to wear the electronic monitoring devices. The statute sets a fee of $200.00 for each person convicted of a violation of an order of protection, and that money is kept with the county in order to pay for electronic monitoring for those who are unable to afford the GPS tracker. As previously stated, this means that counties with a higher poverty level may have more people who are unable to afford the GPS monitoring. This may force some, without the funds to pay for the monitoring, to wait longer to be equipped with the GPS systems. While the costs to pay for the monitoring are not egregious (approximately $9.30 per day) it may still be too much for those with very low income.[26]         

One solution may be to allow those not convicted of violating the order of protection to forgo the electronic monitoring device, thus potentially avoiding the constitutional issues in the system, due to the newly discretionary nature of the monitoring. One possible future change that could benefit counties under this program would be for the state to be able to provide money for counties to conduct risk assessments when they are not otherwise able to afford to. However, this seems unlikely considering the state’s current budgetary situation.          

In addition, even though risk assessments are now discretionary rather than mandatory under the new amendments, the original intent of the Act was that a risk assessment would be useful for the judge to consider when determining bond as well as a way to help protect the victims of domestic violence, and this proposition remains. Thus, even though the court is not forced to conduct the risk assessment, the assessment can still be considered useful for setting bail conditions, although it probably won’t occur as often as needed due to budget constraints.

Conclusion. The Cindy Bischof Act is still a work in progress, although it has significantly improved the safety and welfare of victims of domestic violence. However, legislators and court officials should keep themselves mindful of potential constitutional, financial, and political issues that could influence the effectiveness of this Act and the programs and procedures it lays out. While there are still problems in the Act that should be remedied, such as increased funding for counties and increased use of risk assessments, this Act is a giant step in the right direction for enforcing orders of protection and protecting victims of domestic violence.

[1] Known as the Cindy Bischof Law, implemented at 725 Ill. Comp. Stat., 5/110-5(f) (2009).

[2] Editorial, A Good Anti-Stalker Law, if Illinois Gets it Right, Chi. Sun Times, Aug. 13, 2008, at 25, available at

[3] Id.

[4] 725 Ill. Comp. Stat.  5/110-5(f).

[5] Id.

[6] 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-3-7(a)(17).

[7] 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-9.16.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Stephen J. Culliton, State of the Courthouse 2009, DuPage Co. Bar Brief, Dec. 2009, available  at

[11] See id.

[12] Travis Morse, At What Cost, Journal Standard, (Jan. 19, 2009) available at

[13] Jeffrey Leving, Bischof Law Impedes Fathers’ Constitutional Rights, Leving’s Divorce Magazine, (Mar. 5, 2009), available at

[14] Id.

[15] 725 Ill. Comp. Stat.  5/110-5(f).

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] 730 Ill. Comp. Stat 5/5-9-1.16(b). 

[19] Id.

[20] Travis Morse, At What Cost, Journal Standard, (Jan. 19, 2009) available at

[21] Id.

[22] U.S. Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts; Stephenson County, available at

[23] See 725 Ill. Comp. Stat.  5/110-5(f).

[24] Stephen J. Culliton, State of the Courthouse 2010, DuPage Co. Bar Brief, Dec. 2010, available at

[25] Id.

[26] Editorial, A Good Anti-Stalker Law, if Illinois Gets it Right, Chi. Sun Times, Aug. 13, 2008, at 25, available at

Bryan Thompson is a third year law student at Northern Illinois College of Law and a Staff member of the NIU Law Review. He can be contacted at

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