Attorney Steve Davis (pictured above) delivered a presentation on the use of deadly force at the Sangamon County GSL meeting at SCHEELS in Springfield. Mr. Davis began by repeating the four areas where good guy gun owners most often get themselves into criminal trouble with self-defense.
The terrible four:
Fleeing felons. You can’t shoot them in the back as they’re trying to flee the scene. Nor should you pursue them because if the confrontation begins anew in a new environment, the gun owner becomes the aggressor. And self-defense isn’t available to aggressors.
Inside the home. “I can do anything I want with someone in my home.” No. You still have to have a reasonable fear of great bodily injury. Example: a drunk forced his way into your home because he thought it was his residence. Can you shoot them? Not unless they are posing an immediate threat of death or great bodily injury to you or another.
Improper display/Brandishing. Generally, if you’re not justified in using deadly force, you’re not justified in pulling a gun on someone.
Defense of Property. Regardless what legal statutes say, court cases have made it clear that using deadly force is reserved solely for defense of life, not property.
Davis cautioned everyone that no matter the provocation, a prudent person will never use deadly force in defense of property.
What’s more, he also strongly cautioned against confronting someone over a property crime. That confrontation might become a deadly force incident. Additionally, he pointed out that even with training, tactics and skill sets with a gun, there’s no guarantee you will survive a gun battle.
Burglary as a forcible felony
While Illinois law allows the use of deadly force to prevent a forcible felony, the statute is replete with traps for gun owners who don’t know better. For instance, among Illinois’ list of forcible felonies is burglary.
But what is burglary? A property crime!
You might feel righteous about shooting a burglar stealing your awesome Craftsman lawn mower from your shed or your Bose sound system from your car. Or even work tools from a truck.
“I hate to break it to you, but there are anti-self-defense people all over: including cops, jurors and prosecutors,” Davis said.
If a jury member has reservations about using deadly force to defend life, what are they going to think about someone killing in “self-defense” over a lawn mower or a stereo?
That jury member probably won’t see your use of force as truly justified. What’s more, the feds may prosecute you even if local authorities don’t. See Tennessee v. Garner.
Davis talked about finding yourself in a crowd of hostile pedestrians on local streets or even on Interstate highways. Even if they are trashing your car, you can’t drive over them (deadly force) to protect your property. And “I was in fear for my life” only works if you can articulate ability, opportunity and jeopardy. If you don’t know what those things are, then you should seek out more training to keep you out of prison before it’s too late.
In Davis’ opinion, only if attackers break a window in a car and then continues their attack is the use of deadly force likely to withstand the scrutiny of a hostile prosecutor. And maybe not even then.
Be careful out there. And don’t resort to deadly force to defend property.