When is it legal to use force against someone in Illinois?

While many violent actions against others are crimes, Illinois law allows the use of force in cases where someone is protecting themselves, another person or even their property — specifically their home. These are known as self-defense laws.

Self-defense laws vary by state. So-called “stand your ground” laws have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years. Illinois doesn’t have such a law. It does have what’s known as the “castle doctrine.” It stipulates that if an intruder or attacker is in your home, you aren’t required to retreat before you can lawfully use force against another person. Unlike stand your ground laws, the castle doctrine only applies when a person is in their home.

Illinois law is specific about when force can legally be used to defend a person (including yourself) or your home. A person is allowed to use force if they “reasonably” believe that it’s required to defend themselves or someone else from an attacker’s use of force and that those actions are imminent.

“Deadly force” is lawful only if it’s reasonably perceived to be necessary to prevent harm to someone or to prevent someone from committing a felony.

When it comes to protecting yourself in your home, force is legal if someone reasonably believes it’s necessary to prevent someone from entering their home illegally or attacking the home. Under Illinois law, deadly force is legal only if “entry is made in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner” and a person can reasonably surmise that they or someone else in the home is about to be attacked or that a felony is about to be committed.

A “use of force” defense may be appropriate if someone is protecting property other than a home if it belongs to them or a family member, or they’ve been charged with protecting that property. Deadly force in that case would be legal only if a person believes a “forcible felony” is going to be committed.

Self-defense arguments can be tricky to make in court. If you or a loved one is facing charges for actions that were taken to prevent harm from being done to a person or property, it’s essential to present a strong case. An experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can help you work to do that.