When news of a violent encounter or homicide breaks in Illinois, many meet claims of self-defense coming from the accused with a good deal of skepticism. This comes from an assumption that for an altercation to escalate to the point of one of the parties dying, all involved must have been active and willing participants.
However, at the same time, many may envision situations in which they feel compelled to react with violence towards threats against themselves, their loved ones or their property. Thus, a common question is to what extent does the state allow someone to act in self-defense?
The Castle Doctrine
Individual states set their own self-defense statutes. Many states follow the “stand your ground” doctrine when creating their laws. This legal principle states that one has no duty to retreat from any scenario in which they feel threatened.
Illinois has a different philosophy for self-defense in dangerous situations. According to the Illinois Criminal Code, the state follows the “castle doctrine.” This allows for defensive action but limits its application to situations involving threats in places one is legally entitled to be. Indeed, Illinois’ statute states that someone may react with action against an intruder to one’s dwelling, but only when the intrusion occurs in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, or when one believes that only defensive action might prevent a felony from occurring.
What if I am not at home?
Defending yourself does not apply exclusively to your home. There are many situations where you could be met with unlawful force where you need to protect yourself.
In these situations, there is an affirmative defense when there is a threat of unlawful force, and you feel the need to defend yourself or someone else against the imminent danger. The justification for using force also applies to property other than a dwelling, such as a car or jewelry.
Aggression vs. reaction
An important limit on your ability to act in self-defense is that your action must be in response to a threat. You cannot act in self-defense against aggression when you prompt that aggression through your own actions.
Raising a self-defense argument in a criminal matter comes with a complex analysis of the evidence and the case as a whole. It is essential to talk to a skilled professional about the charges against you.