Vigilante justice and mob action cannot be tolerated in a civilized society. Mobs have a tendency to take things too far and get out of control. Violence always leads to more violence on the streets and every government enforces measures to keep mobs from forming and causing harm to others.
This is why the state of Illinois has created specialized legislation that is meant to control mob action and punish violence committed by people when they are part of a mob.
It should be noted that legislation surrounding mob action is specifically meant to punish being part of the group. A person can be charged and punished under these laws even if they have not actually committed any violence.
People in a mob who commit offenses such as assault or battery can be tried with additional charges covering each offense.State Legislation
State legislation for Mob Action is covered under 720 ILCS 5/25-1. The law states that a person commits mob action when he or she engages in one of the following:
- Knowingly uses reckless force or violence to disturb public peace while acting together with one or more persons.
- Knowingly assembles together with one or more persons with the intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or misdemeanor.
- Knowingly assembles together with one or more persons without authority of law for committing violence to another person or property of anyone who is supposed to have been guilty of a violation of the law, or for the purpose of exercising correctional powers over any person by violence.
Mob action in violation of paragraph 1 is a Class 4 felony which is punishable by 1 – 3 years in prison. Mob action in violation of paragraphs 2 and 3 is a Class C misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one month in prison.
A participant in a mob action who inflicts injury to the person or property of another through violence can be charged with a Class 4 felony.
A participant in a mob action who does not withdraw when ordered to do so by a peace officer commits a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in prison.Considerations
Mob action charges come into effect where at least two people are involved in committing the offense. These offenses are usually tried together with other charges such as assault and battery or possession of weapons and firearms.
The accused may also be charged with conspiracy, an offense that requires more than one participant. Mob action offenses are relatively lighter in terms of punishment. This is why the prosecution almost always brings additional charges against the accused to ensure that they get a conviction.Examples and Court Cases
People can be charged with mob action when they are involved in a brawl with help from at least one other person.
In a recent case, two men from Peoria were charged with mob action along with battery and disorderly conduct when they initiated a fight outside a local restaurant.
Based on the video footage, Terrance Jones pushed another man after an argument started between the two. Kendrick Jones and two other men also became involved in the fight. The small group started throwing chairs and anything else they could get their hands on.
Two people were hit in the face. One received a cut to the chin and the other was hit just outside the left eye. When a restaurant employee tried to break up the fight, Terrance threatened to hit her as well.
The police later arrested the two Jones. The video footage from the restaurant was taken as evidence and the duo was charged with the multiple offenses.
Unless there is video footage of the incident, the witness testimony plays an important role in mob action cases. Consider the case where four people were arrested and charged with mob action and battery in west Chicago last year.
There was no video footage and the prosecution relied on a couple of witnesses who had identified the four men as responsible for causing violence near a casino.
The defense conducted its own investigation and found its own witnesses who were willing to come forward. The defense witnesses vouched that the young men identified by the prosecution could not have been present on the site of the incident at the time of the mob violence.
The defense argued that the mob identified by the prosecution’s witness was wearing hooded clothing that party covered their faces. The defendants had been arrested on suspicion merely for owning similar clothing.
In the end, the judge ruled that there was reasonable doubt and dismissed the case and the four men were set free.Possible Legal Defenses
There are a number of possible defenses that can be used by people accused of mob action. For a start, they can choose to deny participation in the mob. Unless there is video or photographic footage of the incident, the prosecution has to completely rely on witness testimony.
The case circumstances come into play when this route is followed. If the mob in question formed under limited lighting conditions such as night or there are too many people involved, the defense team could challenge the witness testimony for accuracy.
The mob action laws require that the defendant must have participated in the mob knowingly and with intent to cause harm. This opens up a good defense strategy.
The defendant could argue that he or she was not aware that their actions were unlawful. Imagine a condition where a thief steals someone’s wallet and runs away while the victim shouts for help. If two or more people catch the thief and manhandle him to retrieve the wallet, they could still be facing mob action charges in court.
In such cases, the defendant could argue that they acted in good faith with an intention to help the victim of the theft rather than causing violence. The judge would consider the circumstances of the case.
If the defendant’s constitutional rights are violated during his or her arrest, they can seek to get the charges dismissed. For example if the defendant’s home is searched without a warrant to gather evidence, the defense could ask for the evidence to be removed from court proceedings.
Mob action cases should not be taken lightly. An experienced legal defense attorney can make a significant difference in planning a good defense strategy. It can be the difference between getting the case dismissed and getting convicted.