Stand Your Ground Law: Illinois

Illinois is a state that has long been known for corruption, increasingly draconian anti-gun ownership laws and Byzantine legal proceedings that put everyday folks through the wringer.

None of that has changed, but it might surprise you to know that Illinois does, nominally, have self-defense laws on the books that permit citizens to protect themselves from the unlawful use of force by criminals.

flag of Illinois

And though the state lacks a codified stand-your-ground provision, it is even more surprising to learn that state courts have consistently ruled that a person has no other obligation to retreat from a situation when the use of force in defense is required to ameliorate harm.

But this isn’t the whole story. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about the self defense laws of the state of Illinois.

What You Need to Know

  • Illinois recognizes a citizen’s right to use Force to protect themselves or someone else from danger, specifically the imminent or ongoing use of unlawful force.
  • A defender must be able to prove that they used only the level of force necessary to prevent the danger or stop ongoing harm and that the level of force was necessary to protect themselves or somewhere else.
  • A reasonable level of force may also be used to stop the imminent or ongoing commission of a felony.

General Provisions

In Illinois, as with most places, the metric by which self-defense is judged is that the use of force by the defender was necessary to protect themselves, someone else or even in some cases property, from harm or loss.

More germane to our discussion, self-defense and the use of defensive force is only lawful when the defender or another person is faced with the imminent threat of some level of unlawful force.

As with most states’ laws on the subject, the level of force used must be proportional to the level of unlawful force that is threatened or being brought to bear.

Only a lethal threat or a threat that constitutes the risk of great bodily injury justifies the use of lethal force on defense.

Lethal force may also be justified to stop the commission or imminent commission of any forcible felony, including rape, kidnapping, predatory sexual assault of a child, arson and robbery.

Illinois has consistently ruled that a person may stand their ground wherever they have a legal, lawful right to be when using force and self-defense so long as the force is justified and proportional, but you should know that there is no such specific language affirming this in the state’s criminal code.

It is state courts that have consistently expressed, more or less, that there is no obligation to attempt retreat or escape before a defender resorts to force.

Restrictions

Illinois law explicitly forbids the use of force in defense of one’s home or domicile.

For clarity, one may defend against an intruder who enters in a violent or tumultuous manner so long as the defender reasonably believes that the intruder presents a threat to occupants or intends to commit any felony within the dwelling, but you may not use force to protect the dwelling itself.

Assessment

Illinois has something of a notorious reputation concerning guns, gun laws and corruption, but there is at least a kernel of support enshrined in law for citizens who must resort to the use of force in self-defense of themselves or someone else.

The state has no codified statute that could be called a stand-your-ground provision, but the state courts have consistently upheld that defenders have no obligation to retreat or attempt escape before resorting to force so long as the use of force in defense is justified.

Relevant Illinois Use of Force Statutes

ARTICLE 9. HOMICIDE

(720 ILCS 5/9-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 9-1)

(Text of Section before amendment by P.A. 101-652)

Sec. 9-1. First degree murder; death penalties; exceptions; separate hearings; proof; findings; appellate procedures; reversals.

a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death:

(1) he or she either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or

(2) he or she knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or

(3) he or she is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder.

Sec. 12-1. Assault.

(a) A person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he or she knowingly engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.

(b) Sentence. Assault is a Class C misdemeanor.

(c) In addition to any other sentence that may be imposed, a court shall order any person convicted of assault to perform community service for not less than 30 and not more than 120 hours, if community service is available in the jurisdiction and is funded and approved by the county board of the county where the offense was committed. In addition, whenever any person is placed on supervision for an alleged offense under this Section, the supervision shall be conditioned upon the performance of the community service.

This subsection does not apply when the court imposes a sentence of incarceration.

(Source: P.A. 96-1551, eff. 7-1-11.)

(720 ILCS 5/12-2) (from Ch. 38, par. 12-2)

Sec. 12-2. Aggravated assault.

(a) Offense based on location of conduct. A person commits aggravated assault when he or she commits an assault against an individual who is on or about a public way, public property, a public place of accommodation or amusement, a sports venue, or in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other building, structure, or place used for religious worship.

(b) Offense based on status of victim. A person commits aggravated assault when, in committing an assault, he or she knows the individual assaulted to be any of the following:

(1) A person with a physical disability or a person 60 years of age or older and the assault is without legal justification.

(2) A teacher or school employee upon school grounds or grounds adjacent to a school or in any part of a building used for school purposes.

(3) A park district employee upon park grounds or grounds adjacent to a park or in any part of a building used for park purposes.

(4) A community policing volunteer, private security officer, or utility worker:

(i) performing his or her official duties;

(ii) assaulted to prevent performance of his or her official duties; or

(iii) assaulted in retaliation for performing his or her official duties.

(4.1) A peace officer, fireman, emergency management worker, or emergency medical services personnel:

(i) performing his or her official duties;

(ii) assaulted to prevent performance of his or her official duties; or

(iii) assaulted in retaliation for performing his or her official duties.

(5) A correctional officer or probation officer:

(i) performing his or her official duties;

(ii) assaulted to prevent performance of his or her official duties; or

(iii) assaulted in retaliation for performing his or her official duties.

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.)

(…)

Sec. 7-6. Private person’s use of force in making arrest.

(a) A private person who makes, or assists another private person in making a lawful arrest is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if he were summoned or directed by a peace officer to make such arrest, except that he is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another.

(b) A private person who is summoned or directed by a peace officer to assist in making an arrest which is unlawful, is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, unless he knows that the arrest is unlawful.

(Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

(…)

(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.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.