Criminal Defense: Illinois’ Self-Defense Laws


Multiple murders on the streets of Chicago on any given weekend now seem to be a fact of life. The murder rate in Chicago has increased by 13% since 2013; shootings not ending in death were up 40% during the first three months of 2015. It is little wonder that Chicago residents do not feel safe on the streets, or even in their own homes. (See Chicago Tribune) So do you know your rights regarding self-defense, or defense of your property? If threatened with bodily harm or death, do you have a duty to retreat before defending yourself, or can you “stand your ground”? How much force can you use to prevent a “trespass,” reasonable or deadly? What is reasonable force and what is deadly force, and in what circumstances is it alright to use either?

Answers to These Questions are a Phone Call Away

A little while back, there was a lot of controversy over “stand your ground” laws after an incident that occurred in Florida. An aggressor-turned-victim was killed in an act of assault by another who claimed “self-defense.” This incident created such a fury throughout the nation, partly because of the racial component of the incident, and partly because people began to wonder at what point can they be arrested and tried for murder in a case such as this. States scrambled to take a second look at their “self-defense” laws. New laws were enacted, and some were reviewed and revised to fit the ever increasing violence in our overcrowded urban areas.

While all jurisdictions have had some form of self-defense laws in place that allowed you to protect yourself from a threat of bodily harm or death, not all self-defense laws are alike, meaning that some jurisdictions have restrictions on what type of force is considered reasonable and when any force can be used, at all.

The typical types of self-defense laws, depending on your jurisdiction are as follows:

(1) “Stand Your Ground,” wherein there is no duty to retreat from a threat before using reasonable force. The significance of this “no duty to retreat” clause, is that it is not limited to your home or office, but can include any area where you are (i.e., the State of Florida vs. Zimmerman). Zimmerman had gotten out of his car and was in the common area of his home’s subdivision when attacked. The Court found that there was no duty to retreat before using deadly force in this instance, and Zimmerman was eventually acquitted of a murder charge in the death of Treyvon Martin.

(2) “Castle Doctrine,” where there is also no duty to retreat if the threat is in your home, yard, or office;

(3) “Duty to Retreat” jurisdictions where you must retreat if you feel threatened, even in your own home, and the use of deadly force is considered a last resort. Illinois’ Criminal Code, Article 7 appears to be more in line with the Castle Doctrine.

All jurisdictions require that the force used to defend oneself or one’s property be reasonable. Sometimes, reasonable force can be deadly, but it cannot be more than what is necessary to end the threat.

If accused of a crime, it is important that you know what your rights are and how to protect them. If you are being charged with any crime, including murder, sexual assault, or battery and would like to discuss all of the potential defenses available to you, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the David Freidberg law office today, at (312) 560-7100, or send an email to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

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