You got into a fight at a bar or a party or even in your own home. While you are now charged with a crime, you weren’t the one who started making trouble. Can you claim self defense?

The answer depends on a number of factors. Who started the fight? Were you afraid the other person was about to hurt you? Was your fear reasonable?

In Illinois, the elements of self-defense include that (1) unlawful force was threatened against a person, (2) the person threatened was not the aggressor, (3) the danger of harm was imminent, (4) the use of force was necessary, (5) the person threatened actually and subjectively believed a danger existed that required the use of force, and (6) the beliefs of the person threatened were objectively reasonable.

Whether these elements equal self defense depends on the specific facts of your situation and the whether the judge or jury believes you.

In People v Williams, the court held that the defendant’s fear of imminent bodily harm was unreasonable when the victim was unarmed and injured.

On the other hand in In re Vuk, a defendant’s self defense claim was upheld where the court did not believe any of the witnesses. Once self defense has been raised, the state has the burden of disproving the self defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the trial court believed all the state’s witnesses were lying, the state could not sustain its burden of proof.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Self defense is just one of several defenses that can be raised to fight a criminal charge.

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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