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Illinois Criminal Code of 1961

Article 7 - Self Defense Cases in Illinois

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

So, what does it mean to act in self defense and can self defense be used to get a criminal case dismissed? These sections of Article 7 of the Illinois criminal law, listed below, address when it is appropriate to use force against another person. In some situations, this is legal. For example, if a person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary for self defense, he or she is justified to use force.

Invoking self defense can be an effective criminal case strategy in many circumstances, and we have used self defense to win Illinois domestic battery cases for our clients many times.

In addition to self defense, there are other exceptions that justify the use of force. These exceptions include when a person reasonably believes he must use force to defend against attack on a dwelling or against the trespass or interference with property.

None of the above exceptions apply when the person using force is the original aggressor.

Do you believe that you are innocent of a criminal charge because you acted in self defense? For help with your Illinois criminal case, 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. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-1)

(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.)

Sec. 7-2. Use of force in defense of dwelling.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-2)

(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.)

Sec. 7-3. Use of force in defense of other property.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-3)

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

Sec. 7-4. Use of force by aggressor.
    (720 ILCS 5/7-4)

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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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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