Can Police Officers Use Chokeholds in Illinois?

The former Minnesota police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck during an arrest was recently convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter. George Floyd’s death brought significant media attention to the use of chokeholds by police officers around the country. As a result, half of the largest police departments in the United States have banned or limited the use of neck restraint since June. Approximately 62% of police departments now explicitly prohibit chokeholds and carotid holds in their policies about use-of-force.

Illinois Has Also Banned Choke Holds in Policing

Illinois was one of the first states to pass legislation banning excessive use of force, including chokehold by police. In 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law banning chokeholds and creating additional guidelines for using body cameras. Another sweeping Criminal Justice Reform law went into effect on January 1st, 2021. This law puts more stringent limits on the use of force by police officers.

Now, police officers must consider the “totality of the circumstances” when deciding that force is necessary to defend themselves or others from bodily harm. Chokeholds were already banned in Illinois before the new law passed. However, the new law broadens the prohibition of chokeholds. Now, police are prohibited from using any restraint above the shoulders that risks asphyxiation unless deadly force is justified.

When is Deadly Force Justified?

Police officers can only use chokehold on suspects when the use of deadly force is justified. Illinois's new criminal justice law makes it even harder for police officers to justify the use of deadly force. For example, now police officers cannot use deadly force against a suspect who is a danger to himself or herself unless the suspect poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the police officer or another person.

Additionally, police officers cannot use deadly force, including chokeholds, against someone committing a property violation unless that violation is terrorism or deadly force is otherwise authorized. When a suspect is trying to escape arrest, police officers cannot use deadly force to prevent the escape. In other words, police officers cannot use a chokehold, which is now considered deadly force, to prevent someone from escaping the scene of a crime.

Many people wondered why the police officers did not begin to provide aid to George Floyd when it was obvious he was in distress. Illinois's new criminal justice law establishes a duty for police officers to render medical aid and assistance as soon as reasonably practicable. This new duty applies even if the police officers caused the injury by using deadly force. For example, if a police officer did use a chokehold as justified use of deadly force, the officer would still need to begin rendering aid as soon as the threat of deadly force was gone.

Contact an Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

At Glasgow & Olsson, our award-winning criminal defense lawyers have a proven track record of success in many high-profile state and federal criminal cases. You can see defense attorney Thomas Glasgow on local Chicago news when he fought to get a former police officer’s conviction vacated. Contact Glasgow & Olsson today to schedule your initial consultation to learn how our legal team can fight for your rights.

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