Does Illinois Have a “Stand Your Ground” Law?

Does Illinois Have a “Stand Your Ground” Law?
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Last updated: September 2015

The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the Champaign News Gazette.

Does Illinois have a “stand your ground” law, like the one in Florida?

Yes. Article 7 of the Illinois Criminal Code includes a law that is similar to Florida's "stand your ground" law. It is a “self-defense” statute. Under Article 7, you can use "justifiable force" to defend yourself or another, or to defend your dwelling or other property. Use of "justifiable force" can defeat both criminal and civil liability. There are two levels of force under this law:

  • Regular (force that incapacitates), and
  • Deadly (force that causes bodily harm or death).

For either force to be legal under a self-defense claim, you must “reasonably believe that force is necessary" to do the following:

  1. Defend yourself or another person from unlawful force;
  2. Prevent bodily harm or death of yourself or another person; 
  3. Prevent a forcible felony from being committed such as sexual assault, battery, murder, robbery, arson, etc.
  4. Prevent a break-in or attack on a dwelling; or
  5. Protect property in your or a family member's possession or household. 

You cannot claim self-defense if you are the aggressor, if you over-react, or act unreasonably. Use of force is also illegal if you are the person committing a felony or if you are the one provoking force. In each case the following conditions must exist to justify the use of force:

  1. Imminent danger or threat to you, someone else or your property;
  2. The threat must be unlawful;
  3. You must believe that danger exists that requires force; and
  4. You must use force that is equal to the threat.

To defend yourself or someone else against the 'imminent use of unlawful force is OK.

To defend a dwelling, regular force is OK to prevent or stop someone’s “unlawful entry into or attack upon the dwelling.”

To defend “other property”—real property that’s not a dwelling, or personal property—regular force is OK to prevent or stop someone from “trespassing on or criminally interfering with” that property.

“Deadly force” means “force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm.” When you’re defending yourself or someone else, deadly force is OK, but only if you reasonably believe it’s necessary “to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to yourself or another person.

When you are defending yourself or someone else, or stopping someone from “trespassing on or criminally interfering with” other property, deadly force is also OK to prevent “the commission of a forcible felony.”

When deadly force is used to stop someone’s “unlawful entry into or attack upon” a dwelling, it gets harder to justify. You can use deadly force to prevent “an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to” yourself or someone else in the dwelling, but only if you use it against someone whose “entry is made or attempted in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner.” Deadly force is also OK to prevent “the commission of a felony in the dwelling.”

In 1953, the Illinois Supreme Court said it had “repeatedly held” that someone “put in apparent danger of his life or of great bodily harm need not attempt to escape but may repel force with force, even to the taking of an assailant's life, if necessary or apparently so, to prevent bodily harm.”

A judge or a jury decides if the use of force was justified. It’s your job to prove it was.

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