Does Illinois Have a “Stand Your Ground” Law?

Does Illinois Have a “Stand Your Ground” Law?
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Last updated: April 2012

The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette.

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

Answer:
Yes. Article 7 of the Illinois Criminal Code includes a law that is similar to Florida. It’s a “self-defense” that can defeat both criminal and civil liability.

The three main parts of the Illinois law apply to the use of force: “in defense of person,” “in defense of dwelling,” and “in defense of other property.”

The “force” the law refers to is force applied to other people, and comes in 2 different levels: regular or deadly.

For any force to be ok for self-defense, you must “reasonably believe that such conduct is necessary.” It’s not self-defense if you are over-sensitive, over-react, or overdo it. You must act reasonably.

To defend yourself or someone else, regular force is OK to defend against the “imminent use of unlawful force.”

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’s “trespass on or criminal interference 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 only if you reasonably believe it’s necessary “to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to yourself or another.

When you’re defending yourself or someone else, or stopping that “trespass on or criminal interference with” other property, deadly force is also OK to prevent “the commission of a forcible felony.”

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

In 1953, our Supreme Court said they 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 force was right. It’s your job to prove it was.
 

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