Photo courtesy Belfast Telegraph.
Are you required to flee your home in the face of intrusion? No, not in Illinois.

By Paul Vallandigham, Esq.

The laws in a few states require an innocent person to “retreat” from any place where the individual has a lawful right to be in to avoid using deadly force.

Illinois law is best represented by the Pattern Jury Instructions on Murder and Self-Defense.  There is no mention of any requirement to retreat as it is not part of the burden of proof of either side.

Retreat plays a role under the general topic relating to the imminence of an attack.  That is, to be justified in using deadly force in self-defense, you must make a ‘reasonable man’ (what a reasonable man, knowing what the defendant knew at the time, would do) showing that you believed that you faced a serious or deadly assault, and that the assault was imminent.  A prosecutor could argue, given the right set of facts, that some one could have left the scene in complete safety and thereby precluded an “imminent ” attack.

This has been abused in the past by the prosecuting attorneys opposed to firearm ownership and self-defense.   In one egregious case, the trial judge actually allowed the prosecutor to argue that the defendant had to retreat from his own home before he could use deadly force!  This was a case out in Boston, and it was later reversed.


Lesson to learn

Regardless of your financial status (don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish – this is your liberty at stake), call an attorney if you are involved in any sort of self-defense shooting.  Call the police first though and report the defensive shooting, no matter whether there is a “body” or not.  You want to get on record first that you are the victim, and that you fired only when you believed you were about to be killed, or seriously injured by your attacker.  Further statements can wait until you have talked to an attorney, slept, calmed down, and gathered your thoughts. Your attorney can prepared a detailed written statement with you to give to the police that will fully support your claim to self -defense.  Give yourself a chance, and help your attorney help you by talking to him before you talk to anyone else.  Don’t babble yourself into prison with an unsympathetic state’s attorney.

Your attorney can talk to the police for you, and will ask you necessary questions for them, and get rational answers from you, even if he has to ask you the question in several differing ways.  Anyone so frightened of dying is entitled to be rattled, upset, and incoherent.  It’s the norm, not the unusual.  In fact, people who appear to be calm after such incidents draw the suspicions of investigators.  They expect anyone involved in a self-defense shooting should be a babbling idiot and maybe even a little hysterical if you really thought your life was about to end.

Lastly, if you are well trained because you have attended a lot of shooting schools, your attorney can provide that information to the police later. That first interview about the incident is not the time to tell the police how well trained your are at defensive pistol shooting!


Paul Vallandigham was an attorney practicing in Urbana, Illinois.

Photo by Belfast Telgraph.

4 thoughts on “Are you required to retreat from a violent confrontation outside the home?”
  1. Know your state and local laws regarding this – ahead of time. Know exactly when you can and cannot use deadly force.

    Also, your state may or may not have a castle doctrine and/or stand-your-ground law. Look those up if you don’t know what they are.

    The short and the long of it, regardless of whatever the law in your jusridiction says, is that it’s better to run away and live to fight another day – if you can.

  2. As a Jewess in the US, I can only say that ANY anti-gun plan from an ignoramus like Slow Joe Biden or his dirty Kenyan boss is bound to be a loser idea. Certainly it will make all REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST! Both criminals and overbearing governments respect FIREPOWER, not sweet talk. And remember that America wasn’t won with a registered gun.

  3. Keep your attorney’s phone number on your cell phone.

    Practice this statement until you can recite it in your sleep. “Officer, I feared for my life. I fired to defend myself/my wife/whomever. I will be happy to cooperate with your investigation after I’ve consulted with my attorney.” Then SHUT UP!

    While you’re at the scene, even before the cops arrive, get photos of the perp, his weapon, where your empty cartridges fell. Mark where you stood with something, even a dropped wallet, and get that in the picture, to show how close the perp was to you. Be prepared to point these out to the cops. They’ll be looking for evidence to incriminate you. It’s up to you to call their attention to evidence for your story.

    Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses, if any. Make it easier for your attorney to defend you.

    And remember, don’t babble to the cops.

    1. Two comments. First (and I agree with your advice) you never say you were trying to kill the intruder. That’s important. You were trying to stop the intruder. Second, the attitude of the cops is a function of the State and location. In New Mexico, shooting an intruder who gave you cause to fear for your safety is not a problem, though you are correct that you need a lawyer anyway. Just to be sure.

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