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Claiming Self Defense In A Chicago Domestic Violence Case

This is my fourth post in my series on defending yourself against domestic violence allegations in Chicago courtrooms. My last post discussed defending against false claims of domestic abuse. As with many crimes of violence, you may have a claim of self-defense if you did not instigate the physical altercation. However, making a self-defense claim is very fact specific. Defendants should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney if they were arrested for domestic violence while defending themselves. You need to tell your lawyer all the details of the instance that gave rise to the claim against you. Any details you can give will help counsel develop your self-defense claim.

Chicago, Illinois residents have the right to self-defense when facing domestic violence charges

Even facing violence from loved ones you still have the right to self-defense. For example, if you were in a verbal argument with your partner and he or she began hitting you then you have an absolute right to defend yourself from attack. There are a few important things to remember about a claim of self-defense:

  • The harm to you or another person must be imminent (that is, immediate)
  • The harm or threat of harm must be reasonable
  • The response must be reasonable
  • Duty to retreat – Illinois affords citizens the right to “stand your ground”

Basically, this means that in order to counter your claim of self-defense the prosecutor must show that the threat of harm was not immediate, reasonable, or that your response was unreasonable. For example, if your intimate partner slapped you it would be unreasonable to hit her with a baseball bat. If you have a long history with your partner and you are aware they are not violent, and yet they sometimes say things like “I could kill you,” the circumstances may make it unreasonable for you to believe they will actually harm you and hitting them would be unlawful. If you suspect your partner might hurt you in the future it would be unlawful to preemptively hit them.

Illinois law does not require that you retreat from an imminent threat. You must only establish that your use of force is necessary to:

  • Defend yourself or another from unlawful force
  • Prevent bodily harm or death to yourself or another
  • Prevent a forcible felony (murder, rape, arson, battery)
  • Prevent a home invasion
  • Protect personal property

In each instance your response must be proportional and not based on your own conduct. You must not be the aggressor.

Due to the very specific nature of these claims, you will need to discuss with your lawyer all the pertinent facts. It may be necessary for you to testify on your own behalf in order to establish a claim of self-defense. This is a very important decision to make. If you have prior bad acts or convictions the jury may hear about these when you testify. You and your attorney will have to discuss the risks and rewards.

A righteous claim of self-defense is a complete defense to domestic violence charge. Alternatively, there is a defense called “imperfect self-defense”. If you can demonstrate that you believed you were acting in self-defense, even if the objective circumstances made it unnecessary, you may be able to utilize this defense. This defense applies usually to situations where you may have misunderstood the gravity of the circumstances and overreacted. As with perfect claims of self-defense this is very fact specific. A qualified Chicago criminal defense attorney can be a great asset when you face domestic violence charges.

A criminal defense lawyer can take steps to establish a claim of self-defense in Chicago domestic violence cases

There are several steps a Chicago criminal defense lawyer can take to establish self-defense claims in domestic violence cases. These steps include analyzing any audio or video recordings, witness statements, photographs of the scene or any injuries and any physical evidence in an effort to determine the primary aggressor. Your attorney will take a thorough history of your relationship with your accuser and any witnesses to establish the circumstances that lead to your arrest. It is imperative that you hire experienced and qualified counsel to help you establish your self-defense claim if you are arrested for domestic violence.

Contact my Orland Park office for a consultation to discuss your criminal defense needs today. We also handle matters in areas of Cook County including Chicago Ridge, Glenview, Crestwood, Evergreen Park, Bedford Park, Palos Park, Oak Lawn, Burbank, Oak forest, Blue Island, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Alsip, Bridgeview, Lemont, Orland Hills, Country Club Hills, Hickory Hills, Summit, Richton Park, Midlothian, Worth, Posen, Matteson, Olympia Fields, Hometown, and Tinley Park, in DuPage County areas including Downers Grove, Naperville, Woodridge, and Darien, in Kane County areas including Aurora, Elgin and Geneva, and the Will County cities of Joliet, Bolingbrook, Mokena, Frankfort, New Lenox, Lockport, Homer Glen, Romeoville, and Manhattan.


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