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.