You believe the police had no justifiable basis to stop you, and you may be right. Nevertheless, you must still obey police orders, and you cannot physically resist the arrest.

But what if the officer physically threatens you? Can you defend yourself?

Under Illinois law, an arresting officer may generally use any force reasonably necessary to arrest you. (See 720 ILCS 5/7-5(a)). You, on the other hand, may not use force to resist arrest by a known police officer, even if your arrest is unlawful. (See 720 ILCS 5/7-7). So, if the officer tells you to put your hands behind your back, you have to put your hands behind your back even if you know you are being targeted for no good reason.

However, once an officer uses excessive force, you may then have the legal right to forcibly resist arrest and defend yourself. (See 720 ILCS 5/7-1(a)). You are justified in using force against the officer to the extent that you reasonably believe force is necessary to defend yourself or a third person against the officer’s imminent use of unlawful force.

Whether you were justified in defending yourself is a very fact-specific question. Different judges may interpret your fact situation in different ways. That is why it is important that any attorney you select be familiar with the judges in your jurisdiction.

In one Illinois case, the defendant cooperated with police until an officer put his hands on the defendant’s girlfriend who was holding their baby. The defendant called the officer a name and told him not to touch his girlfriend. The officer then beat the defendant. The Court held that the defendant forcibly resisted arrest only after officers applied excessive force. (People v Sims, 374 Ill. App. 3d 427 (2007).

In People v. Brown, the defendant testified that he did not know the police who pulled up in front of him were officers. When the officers pulled weapons, the defendant tried to run. One officer tackled, punched and choked defendant. Defendant claimed he resisted arrest in response to such violence. Based on this testimony, the court held there was sufficient evidence of excessive force to send the issue to the jury.

If you have been charged with an Illinois offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did you know you were dealing with police? Did the police use excessive force? If the police acted unlawfully, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to suppress evidence from your arrest.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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