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Chicago Defense Lawyer: Proving Self-Defense in Illinois

Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

Depending upon the circumstances of your case, the help of a skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyer could be your key to successfully proving self-defense when you've been charged with the following crimes in Illinois:

  • Battery,
  • Domestic Battery,
  • Aggravated Battery,
  • Assault,
  • Aggravated Assault,
  • Murder
  • Attempted Murder
  • Manslaughter, or
  • Homicide.

What Constitutes Self-Defenseor Defense of Others under Illinois Law?

Chicago criminal attorney Michael P. Schmiege provides this excerpt from 720 ILCS 5/7-1 of the Illinois Code:

a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.

Under the law, people have a right to defend themselves. Chicago lawyer Michael Schmiege points out that you also have a right to defend others. But your defense is justified under the law only where you have a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to prevent another person's imminent use of unlawful or deadly force.

What is a "reasonable" belief under the circumstances can be difficult to prove. And your history with the aggressor, the aggressor's previous instances of using threats or force, as well as your own history of using threats or force might be weighed in the balance. Proving self-defense or defense of others is not as easy as you might want to believe. A skilled Chicago criminal lawyer can help you asset the defense of self-defense.

Defense of Others might involve your use of force to save a friend or family member from what you reasonably believed was the danger of severe bodily injury or death. But the law does not require that you know the person you defend at all. The person you defended with force could be a complete stranger. But many people won't risk themselves in a violent conflict to save a stranger. And the court will inquire why you felt it necessary to use force to defend that person. To use the legal defense of Defense of Others, you'll need to be able to show the court why you felt it reasonably necessary to do so.

Because of the complexity involved in proving self-defense and in proving your "reasonable" belief, as well as the importance of admitting evidence regarding the aggressor's previous violent history (and barring any evidence of your own), you shouldn't attempt to proceed on such a defense without the help of an adept and experienced Chicago criminal attorney.

Successfully Proving Self-Defense or Defense of Others in a Chicago Courtroom

When you're facing charges of battery, assault, or homicide, a solid self-defense argument is one of the most useful tools your Chicago criminal defense lawyer can have at his disposal. Successfully proving self-defense or defense of others will keep you out of jail, and free of a conviction on your record. It might also save you from the drama and penalties of an Illinois civil lawsuit. 720 ILCS 5/7-1 (b) specifically bars the aggressor (or his or her surviving family) from initiating a lawsuit against you if you successfully prove that you were justified in using force against that aggressor.

Proving self-defense in Illinois is not a simple matter. The law carefully defines the instances where the use of force can be justified. A number of external factors could affect your ability to successfully use the self-defense argument.

  • Do you have a previous history of conflict or disagreement with the person accusing you of assault, battery, or homicide?
  • Does that person have a history of violent behavior or assault or battery convictions that your Chicago criminal attorney could use to establish his violent character?
  • Were you smaller, weaker, more fragile, or less healthy than the person against whom you used defensive force?
  • Has that person threatened or attacked you before? (This could help you prove the reasonableness of your belief that you were in imminent danger of severe bodily harm or death.)
  • Did that person have a weapon at the time of your use of force against him?
  • Were there witnesses to your use of force against that person that would support your self-defense argument? (Your Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney needs to locate and interview witnesses before they can forget what they saw, the memories become confused in their minds, or your accuser helps them interpret what they witnessed.)
  • Is there security or surveillance video of the confrontation? (Surveillance and security videos are routinely recycled every few days. So it's essential that you have a Chicago defense lawyer to obtain the tape before it's destroyed or taped over and can't help you.)

Chicago criminal lawyer Michael Schmiege cautions that just as you can use your accuser's history of violent behavior to establish his violent character before the court, your accuser might use such evidence in your background against you. The admission of evidence of past deeds or character is subject to the judge's decision. It could be critical to proving self-defense in your case to obtain admission of evidence regarding your accuser. But your Chicago criminal defense lawyer must also work to exclude the admission of similar evidence from your own past. The carefully worded legal Motions of your Chicago attorney could be the key to your success in this regard.

The law recognizes the vulnerability of accused defendants and allows them greater protections under the law from the admission of character or past deeds evidence that could unjustly prejudice case outcomes. Your attorney could make careful use of the protections afforded you under the law to save you from incrimination by your past.

Dedicated Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

Michael Schmiege understands the legal complexities involved in proving self-defense. His careful legal strategies and arguments could be your key to successful use of the self-defense or defense of others argument when you're accused of a violent crime and faced with the possibility of many years in prison. The law recognizes your right to protect yourself against harmful or deadly aggression and understands your need to similarly protect those close to you.

Contact Chicago criminal attorney Michael P. Schmiege for your free and confidential legal consultation. Get the information you need to successfully prove your valid case of self-defense or defense of others.

405 N. Wabash Ave., Suite P2C, Chicago, IL 60611
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The National Trial Lawyers
Law Offices of Michael P. Schmiege - Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Located at 53 West Jackson Blvd., #1515 Chicago, IL 60604. View Map
Phone: (312) 626-2400