Castle Doctrine Law – Illinois

Illinois is a state that is pretty infamously anti-gun and anti-self defense. If you ask most outsiders, intricate, mob-ish legal proceedings are the rule of the day and most citizens that dare to buck the status quo when it comes to criminality usually find themselves on the receiving end of the Illinois legal system.

flag of Illinois
the flag of Illinois

Because of this, it might surprise you to learn that Illinois has, ostensibly, pretty clear and succinct laws that are functionally a castle doctrine statute.

This is definitely good news, but as you are probably expecting the devil is in the details regarding self-defense in Illinois. Keep reading and you’ll learn everything you need to know about this state’s castle doctrine equivalent.

Fast Facts

  • Illinois Castle Doctrine allows citizens to use lethal force in defense of a dwelling against anyone who is attempting to enter in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.”
  • Illinois law also states that lethal force may be used in defense of a dwelling and anyone else occupying the dwelling if the force being used is necessary to prevent the commission of any other felony in the dwelling.
  • In any case, the use of defensive force if justified precludes the aggressor, aggressor’s family or aggressor’s estate from making a claim of liability.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Illinois

Illinois functional castle doctrine law is quite simple. The relevant statutes state that a person occupying a dwelling may use force, including lethal force, to prevent the violent, riotous or tumultuous entry of their dwelling.

In short, this means that anyone who is attempting a forcible entry into the home, room or other qualifiable dwelling may be met with lethal force to prevent that entry.

Additionally, lethal force may be used in defense of a dwelling and any other occupants residing therein to prevent the imminent commission of any felony within the dwelling.

In short, if someone is entering the dwelling with the intention of perpetuating a felony therein or against anyone residing inside lethal force is justified, or if anyone is attempting to forcibly enter the dwelling for any other purpose.

Restrictions

The way that Illinois has worded the relevant statutes it is imperative that defenders understand that lethal force may not be used to defend the dwelling itself.

There must still be a threat or the reasonable belief of imminent danger against occupants. You cannot shoot someone or employ any other level of lethal force just because someone is vandalizing your home or property.

Similarly, the statute states clearly that lethal force may only be used preemptively to prevent entrance to the dwelling if someone is attempting to make entry in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, i.e. are entering forcibly.

Someone that has walked in through an open or unlocked door or window is not making entry in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner and in that case if they are not committing a felony while inside or presenting an obvious threat of death or great bodily injury to any occupants than the use of lethal force is not justifiable.

Just another good reason to keep your doors and windows closed and locked anytime you are at home! Sure, maybe a person just got lost or wandered into your home while they were drunk but that is not a tactical dilemma you want to have to solve at 3:00 in the morning!

Assessment

Although the gears of Illinois criminal justice system might be set to turn against those who would use force and self-defense, you can take heart knowing that the laws codified on the books function as a relatively sturdy castle doctrine statute.

Anyone occupying a dwelling in the state of Illinois may use lethal force against someone who is attempting to enter the dwelling forcibly or who is entering or already entered the dwelling with the intention of committing any other felony.

Relevant Illinois Castle Doctrine Statutes

(720 ILCS 5/7-8) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-8)

Sec. 7-8. Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

(a) Force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, within the meaning of Sections 7-5 and 7-6 includes:

(1) The firing of a firearm in the direction of the person to be arrested, even though no intent exists to kill or inflict great bodily harm; and

(2) The firing of a firearm at a vehicle in which the person to be arrested is riding.

(b) A peace officer’s discharge of a firearm using ammunition designed to disable or control an individual without creating the likelihood of death or great bodily harm shall not be considered force likely to cause death or great bodily harm within the meaning of Sections 7-5 and 7-6.

(Source: P.A. 90-138, eff. 1-1-98.)

(…)

(720 ILCS 5/7-14) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-14)

Sec. 7-14. Affirmative defense.

A defense of justifiable use of force, or of exoneration, based on the provisions of this Article is an affirmative defense.

(Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

Sec. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.

(a) 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. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.

(b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.

(Source: P.A. 93-832, eff. 7-28-04.)

(720 ILCS 5/7-2) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-2)

Sec. 7-2. Use of force in defense of dwelling.

(a) 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 prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or

(2) He reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.

(b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.

(Source: P.A. 93-832, eff. 7-28-04.)

(720 ILCS 5/7-3) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-3)

Sec. 7-3. Use of force in defense of other property.

(a) 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 prevent or terminate such other’s trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with either real property (other than a dwelling) or personal property, lawfully in his possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his immediate family or household or of a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(b) In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of “aggressor” set forth in Section 7-4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.

(720 ILCS 5/7-4) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-4)

Sec. 7-4. Use of force by aggressor.

The justification described in the preceding Sections of this Article is not available to a person who:

(a) is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping

after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

(b) initially provokes the use of force against

himself, with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant; or

(c) otherwise initially provokes the use of force against himself, unless:

(1) such force is so great that he reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and that he has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or

(2) in good faith, he withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

(Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

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