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Illinois Criminal Code of 1961

Article 7 - Justifiable Use of Force by Police and Other Peace Officers in Illinois

In Article 7 of the Illinois criminal code, legislators addressed justifiable use of force in Illinois.

We've been asked questions like "Can a Chicago cop use excessive force while they arrest me?" and "Are police officers allowed to hurt people while they are making an arrest?" These sections of Article 7, listed below, answer these questions and enumerate some situations when force is always deemed to be justifiable.

For example, a peace officer or a private person can use necessary force when trying to execute a lawful arrest. However, a private person is never allowed to use force to resist an arrest, whether the arrest is lawful or not. A peace officer is also allowed to use force to prevent the escape of someone in custody or when carrying out an execution of someone who has been sentenced to death.

For purposes of this discussion, a peace officer could be a member of the Chicago police force or any other municipal police force. But the definition is much broader than that, covering anyone who is vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests for offenses. A full definition of peace officer can be found on our Illinois Criminal Code Glossary page, which is part of the Illinois criminal code.

Need an Illinois criminal defense attorney? If you've been arrested or charged with a crime in Illinois, call our Chicago criminal defense attorneys today at (312) 466-9466 to discuss your case.

The text below comes from Article 7 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961. This law may have changed -- please read the important legal disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 - Article 7

Sec. 7-5. Peace officer's use of force in making arrest.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-5)

(a) A peace officer, or any person whom he has summoned or directed to assist him, need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest. He is justified in the use of any force which he reasonably believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest. However, he is justified in using 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 such other person, or when he reasonably believes both that:

(1) Such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and

(2) The person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony which involves the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay.

(b) A peace officer making an arrest pursuant to an invalid warrant is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the warrant were valid, unless he knows that the warrant is invalid. (Source: P.A. 84-1426.)

Sec. 7-6. Private person's use of force in making arrest.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-6)

(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.)

Sec. 7-7. Private person's use of force in resisting arrest.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-7)

A person is not authorized to use force to resist an arrest which he knows is being made either by a peace officer or by a private person summoned and directed by a peace officer to make the arrest, even if he believes that the arrest is unlawful and the arrest in fact is unlawful. (Source: P.A. 86-1475.)

Sec. 7-8. Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-8)

(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.)

Sec. 7-9. Use of force to prevent escape.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-9)

(a) A peace officer or other person who has an arrested person in his custody is justified in the use of such force to prevent the escape of the arrested person from custody as he would be justified in using if he were arresting such person.

(b) A guard or other peace officer is justified in the use of force, including force likely to cause death or great bodily harm, which he reasonably believes to be necessary to prevent the escape from a penal institution of a person whom the officer reasonably believes to be lawfully detained in such institution under sentence for an offense or awaiting trial or commitment for an offense. (Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

Sec. 7-10. Execution of death sentence.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-10)

A public officer who, in the exercise of his official duty, puts a person to death pursuant to a sentence of a court of competent jurisdiction, is justified if he acts in accordance with the sentence pronounced and the law prescribing the procedure for execution of a death sentence. (Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

   Return to Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 Table of Contents

DISCLAIMER: These excerpts from the law are provided for reference purposes only. Visitors to our Chicago criminal defense lawyer website should be aware that Illinois criminal laws have been amended many times and that Illinois crime laws posted on this site may not be current. In addition, Illinois criminal case law defines precedents for legal determinations that are not defined in the original laws.

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