Sunday, February 22, 2009

Civil Immunity for Self-Defense in Illinois--How Did I Miss This?

At the ISRA annual meetings in Springfield this weekend, FST_Kent of IllinoisCarry.com (actually Kent Peacock of Firearm Safety Training) gave a presentation on the use of force and self-defense. A lot of it was review for IllinoisCarry members (which shouldn't be surprising, since the guy posts here) but was clearly new to some members of the standing-room-only audience. He mentioned one thing in particular that caught me completely by surprise. The subject had turned to "Castle Doctrine" laws; many in attendance felt that Illinois should immediately enact one. Kent was explaining that Illinois has no duty to retreat in our statutes, and therefore no need to pass a "Castle Doctrine" law to repeal the duty to retreat, when the subject of civil liability was raised. A member of the audience asked Kent about the well-known old chestnut most serious gunnies have heard before: "If you have to pull the trigger in self-defense, expect it to cost you a minimum of $10,000--and that's only if you do everything right."

This is where Kent surprised us. He agreed that the old saying is still a good guideline, but then he mentioned that Illinois actually has more protection against the biggest financial danger than most states. It's a given in most states that if you're involved in a self-defense shooting, there are two legal hurdles: first, you may be charged criminally. Then, even if you are not charged or are acquitted of criminal charges, you'll probably face a civil action from your attacker or their estate. Conventional wisdom says that this is the bigger danger for most, because the standard of proof is lower, and the judgment is likely to be enough to ruin most people permanently.

But in Illinois, Kent continued, the 93rd General Assembly passed a statute (it was SB 2386 when it was a bill) amending the "Self-Defense: Exoneration" section of the criminal code to say that no civil liability can arise from an act of self-defense as defined in the statute. In other words, if you're not liable criminally by reason of self-defense, you are not liable civilly by reason of self-defense. This is a HUGE difference from most states:

CRIMINAL OFFENSES(720 ILCS 5/) Criminal Code of 1961..


(720 ILCS 5/Art. 7 heading)
ARTICLE 7. JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE; EXONERATION

(720 ILCS 5/7‑1) (from Ch. 38, par. 7‑1)
Sec. 7‑1. Use of force in defense of person.
(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 which 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.
(cool.gif In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of "aggressor" set forth in Section 7‑4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
(Source: P.A. 93‑832, eff. 7‑28‑04.)


(720 ILCS 5/7‑2) (from Ch. 38, par. 7‑2)
Sec. 7‑2. Use of force in defense of dwelling.
(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 prevent or terminate such other's unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:
(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent,

riotous, or tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or
(2) He reasonably believes that such force is

necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.
(cool.gif In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of "aggressor" set forth in Section 7‑4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
(Source: P.A. 93‑832, eff. 7‑28‑04.)


(720 ILCS 5/7‑3) (from Ch. 38, par. 7‑3)
Sec. 7‑3. Use of force in defense of other property.
(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 prevent or terminate such other's trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with either real property (other than a dwelling) or personal property, lawfully in his possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his immediate family or household or of a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
(cool.gif In no case shall any act involving the use of force justified under this Section give rise to any claim or liability brought by or on behalf of any person acting within the definition of "aggressor" set forth in Section 7‑4 of this Article, or the estate, spouse, or other family member of such a person, against the person or estate of the person using such justified force, unless the use of force involves willful or wanton misconduct.
(Source: P.A. 93‑832, eff. 7‑28‑04.)
I don't know how many other states have a provision like this, but I was flabbergasted to find that Illinois offers this protection. Several firearm and personal protection instructors were in the audience, too, and we all agreed that this was something completely new to us--but it's been the law of the land for over four years.* As far as I'm concerned, that one piece of Kent's presentation was worth making time to get to the annual meetings if the rest had been a waste. Now I'd really like to keep looking into this and see how it actually works. Who decides, for instance, whether your conduct qualifies under the statute if you don't get charged? If you were charged and acquitted, I think it would be pretty clear that you'd met the standard for self-defense. If you were charged and the charges later dropped, I can see how that would be at least an "affirmative defense"--if your attacker brought suit, you could show the judge that your charges were dismissed and they might rule your way. But if you weren't charged at all, would that be treated as proof that your conduct qualified as self-defense? The way the statute is worded, it sounds like they can't even bring a civil action, but if that were the case, there'd be no party with the power to decide that issue.


*"Us" is used here to mean "the instructors and I." It doesn't mean I'm claiming to be an instructor; I'm not one.

2 comments:

Nancy said...

Now that is a good gun law! I can see where it could be problematic, but I suppose you need to have some laws to make sure people just don't go round shooting for fun, then claiming self defense.
This should definitely be adopted country wide.

Anonymous said...

酒店小姐
酒店兼職
禮服店
酒店經紀
酒店兼差
酒店打工
酒店上班
假日打工
台北酒店經紀
童裝批發
童裝批發
酒店喝酒
暑假打工
寒假打工
酒店
酒店經紀人
酒店現領