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What you need to know about the Illinois ‘Castle Doctrine’

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Allegations of any criminal wrongdoing can threaten your freedom and your future. Accusations pertaining to violent crimes, though, can be especially threatening. And all too often, individuals who were acting within their rights at the time of the alleged offense are arrested, convicted, and stripped of their liberty, all because they don’t know how to properly defend themselves.

But how can you effectively defend yourself against allegations of violent crime? One of the strongest defense strategies that you might be able to utilize is self-defense. In this post, we want to look at Illinois’ self-defense law and how you might be able to use it to your advantage in your case.

The castle doctrine in Illinois

Our state’s so-called Castle Doctrine specifies your ability to defend yourself when you’re within your home. Under this law, you can stand your ground and don’t have a duty to retreat when you’re under threat of harm within your home. This means that if someone breaks into your home, then you can use reasonable force to protect yourself.

The castle doctrine is a limited form of self-defense when compared to often talked about stand your ground laws. Stand your ground laws allow you to exert force to defend yourself in any circumstances without a duty to retreat, whereas the castle doctrine is only applicable to threats within your home.

However, to properly invoke the castle doctrine, you have to prove a few elements. To start, you must demonstrate that you were under threat of imminent harm. This means you weren’t just threatened but were likely to be immediately hurt if you didn’t take action. Of course, in the heat of the moment it can be hard to accurately gauge whether you’re under threat of imminent harm, which is why the law applies a reasonableness standard. So long as you reasonably believe that use of force is necessary to protect yourself or another from imminent harm, then you should be within your self-defense rights pursuant to the castle doctrine.

Can deadly force be used?

Yes, under certain circumstances. For deadly force to be justified, you have to show that you reasonably believed that the deadly force was necessary to protect yourself or someone else from death or great bodily harm. You can also use deadly force within your home if doing so is necessary to prevent a felony from occurring.

However, deadly force in protection of your home and property is limited. Here, deadly force is warranted only if the entry into your home is violent and if you reasonably believe that your use of force is necessary to protect yourself or someone else against assault or some other form of violence. Again, you can also use deadly force if you reasonably believe that doing so is necessary to stop the commission of a felony.

Do you need help building your self-defense case?

Your life is on the line when you’re charged with a violent criminal offense. Although raising self-defense arguments might seem like a straightforward way to protect yourself, the language in the statute gives a lot of room for argument for both you and prosecutors.

Therefore, as you prepare to build your criminal defense, take the time needed to analyze the facts of your case considering the castle doctrine and existing case law. By doing so, you might be able to find a path forward to reduced charges, lighter penalties, dropped charges, or acquittal.