The first impulse of many in Illinois may be to dismiss the claim of self-defense made by one facing criminal charges. This no doubt comes from the common assumption that it takes to two people to create a conflict, and many might find it difficult to believe that a conflict serious enough to result in death or serious injury was not undertaken with equal participation by all those involved.
At the same time, however, most people also recognize that there may indeed be scenarios where a person feels as though they have no choice but to defend themselves. This moral dilemma prompts the inevitable question of when does the law consider defensive action justified.
When, where and how to defend oneself
To understand the answer, one must first know of the legal principles dictation self-defense law. Most states follow one of two philosophies in this regard: “Stand Your Ground” or “the Castle Doctrine.” The former permits one to use defensive action in any situation where they feel threatened; the latter restricts such action to credible threats posed in one’s home, personal vehicle or place of business (or any location where one is legally entitled to be). In either case, the law typically only allows for self-defense to a reasonable extent given the circumstances of the situation.
Illinois’ self-defense law
A review of Illinois’ statute regarding self-defense shows that the state follows the Castle Doctrine. Indeed, Section 720.7.2 of the state’s Criminal Offenses Code says that one is only justified in using force when they reasonably believe an intrusion into their home will likely result in death, serious injury or the commission of a felony. Regardless of the circumstances of the intrusion, one cannot legally react with force in any scenario in which they were the initial aggressor.