Life is one of the most protected and sacred concepts in our society. This is reflected in religious beliefs, basic morality, and the law. We punish those that take or harm life. What we also do is allow for the protection of life. This comes in the form of self-defense laws. Self-defense can apply to more than your own person though. The law allows you to protect yourself, others, and your home from harm.
Self-Defense & Defense of Others
Under Illinois Law 720 ILCS 5/Art. 7-1, 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.” The elements necessary to prove that your actions were justified are as follows:
1) Belief that the force used is necessary: This means your interpretation of the situation is reasonable and that someone in a similar situation would also believe that your or someone else is about to be harmed.
2) Amount of force used is reasonable under the circumstances: This speaks to the degree of force used. You must only defend yourself to the extent necessary, meaning you are only justified in using lethal force if someone is about to kill you or cause you great bodily harm. For example, it would not be justified to shoot someone who is unarmed, but threatening to punch you. The use of force in this situation is out of proportion to the threat being made.
3) Defense must be against unlawful force: This means that you cannot use force against someone who is not breaking the law. For example, you cannot attack someone in self-defense who is yelling at you. It may be really annoying, aggravating, and even scary, but a verbal confrontation is not unlawful force according to Illinois law.
Defense of Property
Under Article 7-2 of the same law, you are allowed to defend a home or other property (owned by either you, an immediate family member, or member of your household) to the extent necessary to protect it. The same basic principles apply to the defense of home or property, it must be based on a reasonable belief that force is imminent and your defense has to be in proportion to the force you are protecting against.
When defending your home, deadly force is only allowed to prevent a felony form occurring in the home or if the forced entry is violent and you reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent an assault on you or someone else in the home. When defending other property, deadly force is only justified to prevent a forcible felony.
These laws are not available to you if you are the aggressor. This means you cannot start a fight then claim you were defending yourself by finishing it. There are very narrow circumstances where the aggressor can claim self-defense, but only where he has tried everything he can to get away without using force.
Life is precious. You are allowed to protect it, but the law has to draw lines somewhere. Be sure you consult a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney if you are ever involved in a violent crime so ensure you receive the best defense.