The Castle Doctrine is derived from the concept that a “man’s home is his castle.” We use the term “Castle Doctrine” when referring to an individual’s rights when defending their home. Keep in mind that the home need not be the person’s single-family residence, but any dwelling he or she may “hang their hat;” be it an apartment, trailer, boat, etc. I would like to discuss the Castle Doctrine as it pertains to the State of Illinois.

Does Illinois have a Castle Doctrine?

It depends. There are several Illinois statutes that we must address to determine the validity of such a concept. The actual doctrine is not codified in Illinois law, so we must use other statutes to determine the answer.

Let’s begin with issues of self-defense, the law in Illinois, as stated clearly in 720 ILCS 5/7-1(a), follows:

“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 use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of which could 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.”

Is Castle Doctrine Valid in Illinois?

So, we all understand that we are only justified to use deadly force to protect persons and not property. Now, let’s move on to the next part of our quest to determine if the Castle Doctrine is valid in Illinois.

Defense of Dwelling, which is codified in Illinois and can be found at 720 ILCS 5/7-2(a), states as follows:

 “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 can use force which could cause death or great bodily harm only if the entry is made 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.”

The language in this statute, which is the current law as it stands here in Illinois, puts certain limitations on an individual’s right to use deadly force in protecting their home. I am often asked about the language concerning the entry being in a violent, riotous, tumultuous manner, and why that is a prerequisite. I have represented many burglars in my 38 plus years as a criminal defense attorney and, for the most part, burglars want to tiptoe into your home, grab your stuff, and get out as fast as possible. The intruders have no interest in waking you or doing you any physical harm.

On the other hand, the intruders who come into your home by throwing a brick through your front window or kicking in your door, don’t care if they are confronted by you and may very well have other intentions than just taking your personal property. The concept in this statute and the present law in Illinois is to reinforce the notion that you can’t use deadly force to protect just your property (no matter how precious); you can only use deadly force to protect “persons.”

We are once again left with the legal definition of a reasonable belief and acting in a reasonable manner. Can you question the intent of a person who breaks into your home in the darkness of night and takes your property? Many of these questions will be left up to a prosecutor and perhaps a judge or jury.

My advice to you: learn the law and remember that using deadly force is always a last resort.

So, Does Illinois Have a Castle Doctrine?

My answer is a definite “maybe.”

If you have any questions, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.