Can you claim self-defense for criminal charges in Illinois?

There are many different ways that a person may respond to pending criminal charges. Some attorneys will take the approach of undermining the evidence the state has. For example, if the state cannot prove you were at the site of a crime, that may be enough to cast a reasonable doubt on your guilt. If there were issues at the lab, this could lead to a defense based on contamination and unclear test results.

In other cases, where there is no question about your presence at the time of the offense, an affirmative defense may be a better option. Claims of temporary insanity may be the best known affirmative defenses. However, claims of self-defense are also a kind of affirmative defense that may be successful in relation to certain violent crimes and pending charges in Illinois.

What is an affirmative defense?

Unlike a standard defense tactic, which may seek to prove that you were not involved in a crime or not present for an event, an affirmative defense does not question that you performed the alleged crime. Instead, an affirmative defense seeks to prove to the court that you had reasonable justification for your actions. In other words, while you did what they claim, your actions have some form of legal protection.

Affirmative defenses are a good option in different cases. For example, if there is security footage that proves you were at the location of the alleged crime, simply claiming you aren’t present won’t do much to defend you. However, if you concede the provable facts about the the case while presenting a different perspective, that may help you successfully raise a defense.

Illinois law allows people to use reasonable force to protect themselves

No one has the right to attack or injure another person. Generally speaking, all forms of unwanted contact or injury fall under Illinois criminal statutes. However, Illinois state law absolutely allows for the use of force when defending a person or your home. All you need to prove to the courts is that you had a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to defend yourself or someone else.

Typically, you must have feared that the actions of another person would cause death or great bodily harm to yourself or someone else. In other words, you had to have reasonable fear of violence when using force in self-defense. It’s important that claims of self defense only arise in situations where the defendant is not the instigator of the altercation.

If the prosecutor has witnesses who claim that you initiated the fight or physical contact that led to criminal charges, self defense likely won’t be the best defense in your case. Only a careful review of your situation can determine whether self-defense could be an effective way to defend against the pending criminal charges you face.