Illinois Self Defense Laws

Sometimes the use force is necessary to protect yourself, others, and property from harm. Illinois law recognizes your right to act in self-defense. However, you must be able to prove that your actions were justifiable. If you have been arrested for a crime in Chicago but were acting in self-defense, call the Kostopoulos Law Group for help. Our Chicago criminal defense attorneys will fight to make sure that you are not punished for invoking your right to act in self-defense.

What is Self Defense?

Self-defense is the act of using force that, under different circumstances, would be unlawful. The only reason you used force, however, was to protect yourself, another person, or property from imminent harm. The argument of self-defense is what is known as an affirmative defense. You admit to engaging in certain behavior, but offer a justification for your actions. For the purposes of self-defense, you must simply prove that using force was necessary to thwart and immediate threat of harm.

Self Defense of a Person in Illinois

The state of Illinois explicitly recognizes your right to use force to protect yourself or another person from danger. Specifically, 720 ILCS 5/7-1 explains that “a person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

In order to establish that you acted in self-defense, you must be able to prove:

  • You or another person were threatened by another person’s imminent use of unlawful force,
  • The use of force was necessary to protect yourself or another person, and
  • You only used the degree of force necessary to prevent danger or harm.

In other words: you or another person were in imminent danger and you used a reasonable level of force to stop the attacker from harming you.

You are also permitted to use reasonable force to stop another person from committing a felony.

Imminent Danger

The use of force in self-defense is only appropriate when you (or another person) are faced with the imminent danger. This means that the threat of harm must be immediate and present. Simply fearing that you will be harmed at some point in the future does not excuse the use of force.

Unlawful Force

Self-defense only applies when you are faced with an imminent threat of unlawful force. Unlawful force can be broadly interpreted to mean any contact or touching that is without consent, harmful, and/or offensive. You cannot act in self-defense and use force against a person who is not breaking the law.

Using force in self-defense may be appropriate when faced with an imminent threat of:

Necessary to Protect

The use of force is only justifiable when it is necessary to protect yourself or another person from danger. Whether or not the use of force was necessary will be a question of fact. A jury will consider all relevant information and evidence and determine if your actions were reasonable. If a reasonable person in your situation would have acted similarly, the use of force will likely be considered necessary.

Proportionate Force

When acting in self-defense, you only have the right to use the level of force that is necessary to prevent harm. The level of force you use should be proportionate to the threat of harm you face.

Using deadly force to defend against a simple assault, for example, would not be proportionate.

However, using deadly force to protect yourself or another person may be justified if you feared immediate and substantial bodily harm or death.

Self Defense of Your Home in Illinois

Illinois is one of many states across the country to have a Castle Doctrine, which recognizes your right to protect your home from an unlawful attack or entry. In Illinois, you may be justified in using force to protect your home if you reasonably believe that it is “necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling.”

Use of Force

The use of deadly force to protect your home is prohibited. However, the use of deadly force in self-defense of your home may be appropriate when:

  1. Entry to your home is made in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner and you have a reasonable belief that the use of force is necessary to prevent a personal attack on you or another person inside the home, or
  2. You reasonably believe the force is necessary to prevent a someone from committing a felony.

Self Defense of Property in Illinois

Illinois is one of a few states to permit the use of force to protect one’s own property. State law permits the use of force in defense of property when:

  • You have a reasonable belief to believe the use of force is necessary,
  • To prevent or terminate another person’s tortious or criminal interference,
  • Of personal or real property (other than a dwelling) that is in your possession.

The right to use force to protect property also extends to protecting property that is in the possession of an immediate family or household member.

Level of Force

The use of deadly force is generally prohibited when you are protecting your own personal or real property. However, Illinois state law permits the use of deadly force, or force likely to cause great bodily harm, when it is necessary to prevent someone from committing a forcible felony.

Forcible felonies are defined in 720 ILCS 5/2-8 and include:

Can I Stand My Ground in Illinois?

In Illinois, you do not have a duty to retreat before using force to defend yourself from danger. While there is no explicit language in the state’s criminal code, state courts have expressed that there is no requirement to escape danger before resorting to force. As a result, you have a right to stand your ground and use force to protect yourself against an imminent threat of unlawful force.

When Can’t I Argue Self Defense?

You can only argue self-defense if you are reacting to another person’s unlawful conduct and/or trying to prevent a felony from being committed. You may not argue self-defense when you are the initial aggressor. This means that you cannot start a fight and then, when attacked, claim that you were acting in self-defense.

Need More Information on Illinois Self-Defense Laws?

Have you been arrested for using force against another person? If you were acting in self-defense of yourself, another person, or your property, you have the right to argue an affirmative defense in your case. If your argument is persuasive, you can avoid serious criminal consequences. Call the Kostopoulos Law Group to find out how we can help you prove that your use of force was justifiable under Illinois’ self-defense laws.

Our Chicago attorneys, led by former prosecutor Gus Kostopoulos, understand that the use of force is sometimes necessary to protect yourself. We will help you fight to prove that your actions were lawful and avoid any criminal penalties. Call us to request a free consultation and learn more.

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