Chicago Attempted Murder Charge and Self-Defense

A Chicago man was recently charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing another man in the chest. Based on the bare facts, it seems like a slam dunk case. The stabbing took place in a bar, in full-view of dozens of witnesses who, along with the victim and a third-party who was involved in the argument, can presumably identify the defendant as the suspect. But by examining all the facts surrounding the stabbing, a good criminal defense can be crafted that may result in outright acquittal or a reduction in charges.

Criminal Defense to Attempted Murder

In any attempted murder charge, the first step is to determine whether the defendant can plead the affirmative defense that he acted in self-defense. An affirmative defense means that the burden of proof is on the defendant (normally, the burden of proof in criminal cases is on the prosecution) to prove the facts that justify his defense. In a claim of self-defense, it is up to the defendant to prove that he was justified in using deadly force; it is not up to the prosecution to disprove that deadly force was justified (although most prosecutors will make that part of their case).

Under Illinois law, a defendant will be found to have justifiably used force and acted in self-defense if he can prove that he “reasonably believed” that force was necessary to defend himself or someone else against the victim’s use of force. However, force that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm – such as a stabbing in the chest – is justified only if the defendant reasonably believed that he was himself in danger of death or great bodily harm from the victim.

To prove a self-defense charge, a criminal defense attorney would examine all of the circumstances that led up to the stabbing, including statements by the victim, defendant and any eyewitnesses, to determine whether any of the facts would support a claim of self-defense. Facts that may support a self-defense claim may include:

  • Whether the victim made any threats to the defendant that would have made him reasonably believe that either he or his companion was in imminent danger;
  • Whether the victim had a weapon;
  • Whether the victim made any gestures that a reasonable person would have felt were of a threatening nature and indicative of a threat of bodily harm (such as reaching for a weapon);
  • Whether the defendant and the victim had a history that would have caused the defendant to have a reasonable belief of imminent harm; or
  • Whether the victim’s injuries were likely to cause death or great bodily harm, or if they were just minor wounds made to sound more deadly by describing them as “stab wounds to the chest.”

The presence of these or any other factor that would have caused a reasonable person to be placed in imminent fear of injury or death would result in a finding of self-defense, leading to an outright acquittal.

Chicago Aggravated Battery Charge

If, after a review of all the facts, it does not appear that a claim of self-defense can be sustained, a skilled defense attorney would seek a reduction of charges. In this case, an examination of the facts may show that while the defendant did in fact stab the victim, the charge should be aggravated battery, not attempted murder.

Aggravated battery occurs when the defendant inflicts great bodily harm to a third-party. The difference between aggravated battery and attempted murder is that in aggravated battery, the defendant did not intend to kill the victim; instead, he only intended to harm him or, perhaps, attempted only to scare him by brandishing the knife (which would be aggravated assault) and the stabbing was an accident. If an examination of the facts showed that the defendant never intended to kill the victim – or even that he never intended to stab him – then the charges could be reduced to aggravated battery, which involves much less prison time than a conviction on attempted murder.  

Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been arrested for committing murder or any other crime in Chicago, do not speak with police or prosecutors until you have met with a Chicago criminal defense attorney. Crafting a solid criminal defense begins immediately, and any statements made to police or prosecutors could have a negative impact on your defense. Contact the Chicago Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. at 312-560-7100 today for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 for your convenience.