Can you go to jail for self-defense?

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Anyone who is attacked and in danger of being harmed has the right to defend himself, but there are still times when a person acting in self-defense winds up faced with the possibility of going to jail. While Illinois law allows you to take actions in self-defense, you must be able to prove that you were justified in doing so, or you could wind up charged with serious crimes that may include assault and battery or even manslaughter.

Self-defense is the use of force necessary to protect yourself, others, and property from harm. However, you are allowed to use this force only in certain situations which are set out in Illinois law. If you have been accused of harming someone through using force that would ordinarily be illegal and feel that you acted in self-defense, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

The skilled and seasoned Illinois criminal law and manslaughter attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. understand that there are situations in which you have no other choice but to use force to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your property. We understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know the courts, judges, and system and how to best plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take your case to trial. We have been successful helping others in your situation and will do everything possible to vigorously fight for you and defend your rights and your freedom.

We offer a free consultation to examine the issues in your case. Contact us online or call our offices today to set up your free consultation.

Can You Go to Jail For Self- Defense?  What are Illinois Laws?

Illinois has several laws that deal with situations where you can use force in self-defense without going to jail.  According to 720 ILCS 5/7-1, “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.”

For your belief that your actions for self-defense were necessary to be considered “reasonable,” you will have to prove that:

  • You or another person was threatened by someone’s imminent use of unlawful force,
  • The use of force was necessary to protect yourself or another person, and
  • You used only the degree of force necessary to prevent danger or harm.

You may also use reasonable force to stop another person from committing a felony.

Remember that actions you take for self-defense would ordinarily be against the law and carry the possibility of a jail sentence if certain circumstances — protecting yourself, another person or property from imminent harm — did not exist. If you are the one who initiated the attack, and then the person attacked you back, you cannot claim that you were acting in self-defense.

Defending Your Home

Illinois has a “Castle Doctrine,” which recognizes your right to use force to protect your home from an unlawful attack or entry and also to defend your property and the property of family members. The castle doctrine limits this right to the home. This contrasts with “stand your ground laws” that exist in some states and have no such limitation.  If your home is attacked, you do not have a duty to retreat before using force to defend yourself, your family, your property and your home from danger.

However, you cannot use force in every situation.  If you used force that was likely to result in death or great bodily injury, one of the following must be true:

  1. Entry to your property was made in a violent or tumultuous manner, and you reasonably believed the use of force was necessary to prevent harm to you or others on your property; or
  2. You reasonably believed the use of force was necessary to prevent a felony from being committed on your property.

Forcible felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory criminal sexual assault of a child
  • Burglary and robbery
  • Domestic violence
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault and battery.

So, you can argue self-defense only if you are reacting to another person’s unlawful conduct and/or trying to prevent a felony from being committed. Also, even though you may be acting in self-defense, you may use only the level of force that is “proportionate” to the threat of harm you face and that is necessary to prevent harm.

Using deadly force for protection may be justified if you were put in imminent danger and feared immediate and substantial bodily harm or death.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you or a loved one has been arrested and are faced with the possibility of going to jail for a situation you feel was in self-defense, you need the help of a criminal defense attorney to prove that your actions were valid.

The manslaughter and criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense.  We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

We offer a free consultation, so contact us online or call our offices today.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]