Facing criminal charges for physical battery is a serious matter, and a conviction can have lasting consequences for your life. The situation is even worse when you feel that you don’t deserve the charges because you were merely defending yourself or someone else when you engaged in the physical altercation. Under specific circumstances, you can sometimes use self-defense as a defense in court to defeat – or lessen – the charges against you for battery.
Self-defense is an affirmative defense in Illinois. This means that the court will not consider self-defense unless you raise the matter in court, and you will have the burden of presenting enough evidence to prove that your circumstances satisfy the requirements for self-defense.
Illinois law allows you to use force to defend yourself or others from the threat of physical harm. However, there is a proportionality requirement involved in self-defense. In other words, the force you use must be proportional to the force that the attacker is using.
This means that you can use deadly force only to stop an attacker who is also using deadly force. If your attacker is using non-deadly force, then you will only be protected if you also use non-deadly force to stop them.
Perfect and imperfect defense
If you satisfy all of the statutory requirements for using self-defense as a defense in court, then you can successfully defeat the charges against you. This is known as a perfect defense. However, sometimes defendants satisfy most, but not all, of the requirements for self-defense. In these cases, these defendants can sometimes claim an imperfect defense.
An imperfect defense may not result in dropped charges, but they could get the penalties reduced or mitigated. An example of an imperfect defense is if you mistakenly and unreasonably believed in the necessity for deadly force when in reality non-deadly force would have sufficed.
Dealing with the legal aftermath of a physical altercation can be very stressful, and the prospect of a criminal conviction is worrisome. Fortunately, the law provides you with affirmative defenses that you can try to prove in court in order to try to defeat the charges against you.