Under Illinois law, you act in self defense if: (1) there is a threat of unlawful force against you; (2) you are not the aggressor; (3) the danger of harm was imminent; (4) your use of force was necessary; (5) you actually and subjectively believed there was a danger that required you to use that force; and (6) your belief was objectively reasonable. See 720 ILCS 5/7-1. Self defense can include defense of another.

To claim self defense, you cannot be the initial aggressor. Therefore, you cannot start a fight and then cry self defense because you were on the losing end. However, throwing the first punch does not necessarily make you the aggressor if the other party initially provoked the use of force.

For example, People v. Cruz involved a dispute that started on a Chicago Transit Authority bus. The defendant got on the bus without at first paying his fare and was yelling at the driver. The driver and another passenger named Perkins discussed the defendant’s difficult behavior. After some back and forth, Perkins grabbed defendant and threw the first punch. Defendant stabbed Perkins in the chest. Although Perkins threw the initial punch, defendant could not claim self defense because he had brandished a knife. The court held that brandishing a weapon is one way for a defendant to become the initial aggressor.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Do your actions qualify for self defense or another legal defense such as necessity? An attorney who is familiar with your particular judge may be able to present the facts of your case in their most persuasive 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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