It is very late at night.  You hear someone prowling outside your window.  You want to take some sort of action, but at what point are you allowed to use deadly force to defend your home? 

            According to Illinois law, you are not required to wait for a breakin before using justifiable force. Furthermore, defense of a dwelling does not require danger to your life or great bodily harm. You may use deadly force when the other person’s entry was made in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner, and you subjectively and reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent assault or personal violence to you or another in your home. (See 720 ILCS 5/7-2(a)(1)).  However, your belief in the danger must be reasonable, based on the facts and circumstances before you.

            For example in People v. Yanez, the court held that the defendant acted reasonably in defense of himself and his 14-year-old nephew when he killed the victim.  The defendant was not the aggressor.  The victim broke the window in defendant’s door and had reached inside.  The victim verbally threatened defendant.  Defendant’s nephew had been frightened.  The victim was much larger than defendant and had been intoxicated.  The victim pounded on the door on three occasions, each time more aggressive than the last.

            On the other hand, in People v. Wasmund, the court found the defendant’s defense of his shed was not reasonable. The defendant had rigged a shotgun so that it would fire when the shed door was opened, killing the victim upon entry.  When the property is not your dwelling, deadly force is only justified if you reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent a forcible felony.  (See Defense of Other Property,  720 ILCS 5/7-3). Although there had been prior thefts at the shed, defendant did not install an alarm system, security cameras or other non-lethal means of protecting the shed.  Furthermore, the defendant denied having anything valuable in the shed.  Thus, the booby trap was designed to harm rather than protect.

            If you are charged with a crime and were acting to defend yourself or your home, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately.  An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Was the victim acting violently? Was your belief in the danger reasonable? Be aware that different judges may view the same facts very differently. Therefore, it is important to hire an attorney familiar with your courthouse who may present the facts of your particular case in their most favorable light.

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

(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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