Self Defense Cases in Chicago, Illinois
The Use of Self-Defense
Although you normally consider yourself to be a nice and non-violent person, you now find yourself faced with a situation in which your instincts tell you that a forceful and violent response is the right thing to do. How should you handle this? Will you get in trouble if you do fight? Generally, it is against the law to cause bodily harm to another, cause permanent disability or disfiguring injuries, or to cause the death of someone, absent lawful justification. Illinois law does allow for the proper use of force, and the proper level of use of force, and it all depends upon the circumstances at hand.
Requires Lack of Lawful Authority
Police and prosecutors have the power to fully investigate alleged crimes, and bring charges they think are appropriate based upon the circumstances. However, it is often the case that a person will be charged with a crime following a violent incident without any thorough police investigation. This is true even though that person may be entitled to claim a defense. As such, it will later be left up to a Judge or a Jury to decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
The laws against committing a Battery, Aggravated Battery, or even Murder all hinge on one common factor, they must be committed without lawful authority. In other words, the mere fact that you may have injured or even killed another person does not necessarily mean that you should be found guilty by a court of law. Commonly, this raises an applicable Affirmative Defense.
What is an Affirmative Defense?
An Affirmative Defense is defined in Section 3-2 of the Illinois Criminal Code as a defense to a charge that, unless raised by evidence presented by the State in its Case, then the Defendant must present some evidence to raise the issue before the Judge or Jury. With the exception of insanity as a defense, the State must prove a Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to that issue, together with all of the elements of the charged offense(s). When it comes to the use of force, the Affirmative Defenses are "In Defense of Person", "In Defense of Dwelling", "In Defense of Other Property", as well as a Private Person's Use of Force in Making an Arrest.
Section 7-1 provides that a person may use force to defend himself or another when he reasonably believes such force is necessary to defend against another's imminent use of unlawful force. Lethal force, or force that may cause great bodily harm, may only be used if one reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent great bodily harm or death to himself or another, or in response to the commission of a "forcible felony." "Reasonable belief" is the idea that a person of ordinary intelligence and development would, in the same circumstance, believe that the use of force against him was "imminent", meaning happening in the moment, or just about to happen in that moment.
What constitutes force likely to cause Death or Great Bodily Harm? Exactly what that sounds like. It is the infliction of injuries, whether by brute strength, or through the use of a deadly weapon or object that could be used to inflict serious injury or death. As with the other theories of defensive use of force, the force used cannot exceed what is reasonable under the facts of the individual case. Be careful, because once the use of force is no longer needed, to continue its use may turn the tables on you, and make you guilty of a crime.
Use of Force in Defense of Property in Chicago
Section 7-2 provides for the Defense of one's Dwelling, or home. One may use whatever force is necessary to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry into, or an attack upon, one's dwelling where they are lawfully staying. Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm may be used only if entry is being made or attempted in a "violent, riotous or tumultuous manner," meaning a forcible entry, or extremely loud, threatening or chaotic, and there is a reasonable belief that such lethal force is needed to prevent assault or personal violence to him or another lawfully there, OR the reasonable belief such force is needed to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling. Notice how lethal force may be brought even if there is no belief that lethal force will be brought against another in the dwelling, as long as the offender enters violently, etc., and it is reasonable to believe he is about to assault another or commit a felony, whether violent or not.
While the law allows for a person to use greater force when defending a dwelling, such is not the case when it comes to other property, such as a business establishment, a garage, a shed, a car, or whatever. Section 7-3 allows the use of force to the extent there is a reasonable belief it is necessary to prevent or end a trespass, tortious or criminal interference with real property (not a dwelling) or personal property belonging to him or his family, or to which he has a legal duty to protect (such as a bouncer or security guard).
The use of deadly force, or that which may cause great bodily harm, may only be used to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Forcible felonies are covered by the most serious of offenses, such as Treason, First or Second Degree Murder, Predatory Criminal Sexual Abuse of a Child, Criminal Sexual Assault, Arson, Kidnapping (and the more serious "aggravated" versions of those offenses), Robbery, Burglary/Residential Burglary, Aggravated Battery involving great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement or disability, and any other felony involving the use or threat of physical force or violence vs. another. One cannot set up death traps designed to severely injure or kill someone to prevent them from breaking into a non-dwelling, because a mere trespass to land, without more, is not a forcible felony. On the other hand, you can likely "blow the head off" of the guy that tries to rob your family's convenient store.
Citizen's Arrest in Chicago
Although none of us are ever obliged to step in and stop a crime in progress, or take action to apprehend a criminal, such things do sometimes happen. We enjoy the same right to use force to effect a lawful arrest enjoyed by law enforcement, except that we can only use lethal force if we reasonably believe in the moment that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to one's self, or another.
What about when the police, or a private citizen being directed by police, are arresting you, and you know you are right, they are wrong, and the arrest is illegal or just plain wrong? Can you use force to defeat the arrest? NO! Section 7-7 specifically takes away the right of a private citizen to in any way forcefully resist an arrest, even if the arrest is unlawful. If you so much as pull away from the officer, or tense up against the cuffing procedure, you will be charged with the criminal offense of Resisting or Obstructing a Peace Officer, a Class A Misdemeanor, that among other things, can result in a permanent record of conviction that can neither be expunged nor sealed if found guilty.
Speak Now To Our Knowledgeable Chicago Criminal Attorneys
Crimes involving violence, such as battery, aggravated battery, and the like, are serious offenses that carry severe criminal penalties, as well as the exposure to potential civil liability including punitive damages (or "punishment money") against you. If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense of any kind, you need the assistance of effective, aggressive legal representation. The Chicago criminal defense lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates have a wealth of combined experience and can provide you with top quality services. Call us at (800) 996-4824 and schedule your free initial consultation, today!