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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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The Line Between IL Domestic Violence and Self Defense

Protecting your own life is one of humans’ most primal instincts. That’s why people are allowed under the law to protect themselves in certain situations. It is considered self-defense if they perceive their lives are at stake or they could be injured. In some cases, self-defense can stretch beyond your own well-being and branch out into protecting others or even property.

In circumstances where a relationship with a household or family members takes a turn, the lines between defending oneself and crimes such as domestic violence become very blurry. Under these circumstances, it can be difficult to understand the difference between actions that must be taken to ensure your/others’ safety and actions that are too excessive – and constitute a crime.

Here is what you need to know about domestic violence in Illinois and how self-defense works in cases where someone has been accused of domestic violence.

Self-Defense: What Is It?

Self-defense is an action taken by someone to protect themselves. It’s typically constituted by physical force that a person uses to protect themselves from bodily harm purposefully. It cannot be an inappropriate force in the situation – with more aggression or violence than the situation calls for – to be considered self-defense under the law.

Domestic Violence: What Is It?

In Illinois, there are certain actions that, when perpetrated against someone who is a member of your family or household, become an act of domestic violence.

The state considers someone to be a member of the household or family if they are:

  • Anyone to whom you have been or are currently married
  • Anyone related by blood or marriage, such as stepchildren and parents
  • Anyone with whom you have or currently share a home
  • Anyone with whom you share a child
  • Anyone you have dated or are currently dating
  • Those with disabilities and the people who care for them

, The Line Between IL Domestic Violence and Self Defense

Domestic violence is a serious problem in Illinois and beyond, which is why it’s taken so seriously by police. You may claim that you were simply trying to defend yourself when the police show up, but the truth is that it takes quite a lot to prove self-defense.

The Keys to Self-Defense

In order to establish self-defense, you must be able to show the key elements of it. These key elements include:

  • You reasonably thought you were in danger of imminent harm
  • The threat you faced was unlawful
  • You had to use force in order to protect yourself
  • The force you used didn’t exceed the level of the threat against you

Under the law, the things mentioned above allow you to protect others and yourself, even property, without penalty. But if your actions fall outside these strict parameters, you could face criminal charges, like those associated with domestic violence.

What Counts as an Imminent Threat?

One of the first things you have to understand about self-defense is what an imminent threat is since one of the keys to self-defense is the threat of harm.

Imminent threats are those that are intended to bring you to harm immediately. If it’s not immediate, then it could be argued that you had a chance to call the police or run away before taking defensive action.

What Is Necessary Force?

When you are facing an imminent threat and use force, then it must be justified. That means that the person who was threatening intended to use force that was unlawful against you, and the actions you took were necessary to defend yourself.

If the actions taken against you were not violent, then it’s likely that force may be deemed unnecessary in the situation.

What Is Appropriate Force?

To count as self-defense, the force you use against another can’t be greater than the force they use against you. So, for example, if someone is threatening violence but doesn’t have a weapon, and you use a gun, that could be considered an inappropriate force.

, The Line Between IL Domestic Violence and Self Defense

Self-Defense and Domestic Violence

The motivations leading up to the altercation between two people make the difference between an act of self-defense and an act of domestic violence. If it was truly self-defense, then you can use that as a defense in a domestic violence case.

It can be successful as long as you show each element of self-defense.  If you cannot show these things as true, you may face penalties for domestic violence charges that can follow you around for life.

Understanding any charges against you and your rights in the situation is vital to your success at beating charges. That’s why you should contact an experienced lawyer to help you with your case.

About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.

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