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Illinois Self Defense Laws

Preservation of life is one of our primal instincts. Self defense laws enable us to protect ourselves from injury or death by using a degree of force. The concept of self defense generally, not only applies to literally defending yourself, but also to defending others and property as well, in some cases. States have laws that preserve this right, but these laws can vary when it comes to the circumstances under which you can use force and the type of force that can be used. For instance, some states have duty to retreat laws which require an individual to retreat from the situation before they can use force as a defense. Other states employ laws that do not call for a duty to retreat. These are often referred to as "stand your ground" laws or "castle doctrine" laws.

Illinois Self Defense: Castle Doctrine

Illinois doesn't recognize stand your ground laws. Instead, it uses a similar doctrine called the "castle doctrine." Both stand your ground and castle doctrine jurisdictions differ from duty to retreat states because they don't require an individual to first retreat from the danger before using force against an attacker. However, the castle doctrine gives people the right to avoid retreating in their home in order to protect themselves from intruders. The intent of the law is that your home is equivalent to your castle and, as king or queen of your castle, you should not be required to retreat from people who have no right to be in your home. The castle doctrine limits this right to the home, as contrasted to stand your ground laws which have no such limitation.

Illinois Self Defense Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to self defense laws in Illinois, including links to important code sections.


Use of force in defense of person: 720 ILCS 5/7-1
Use of force in defense of dwelling: 720 ILCS 5/7-2

Use of Force in Defense of Person

A person can use force against another if he or she reasonably believes that it is necessary to defend himself/herself or another, against an individual's imminent use of unlawful force.

A person can use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm (to him/her or another) or to prevent a felony from being committed.

Use of Force in Defense of Dwelling

A person can use force against another when he or she reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent or terminate another's unlawful entry into or attack onto a dwelling.

A person can use deadly force only if:

  • The entry is made in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner and there is a reasonable belief that the force is necessary to prevent an assault/ personal violence against him/her, or another in the dwelling, or
  • If the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to prevent a felony from being committed.

Related Defense

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Illinois Self Defense Laws: Related Resources

Locate an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

Illinois' self defense laws are there to ensure that you can protect yourself. If you've been charged in a case where you used force to defend yourself, then you could be facing serious ramifications unless you can establish facts supporting a self defense argument. Have someone on your side that understands your situation and can argue your case. Find an Illinois attorney today.

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