Updated: May 6, 2021
I am frequently asked whether a citizen can resist an unlawful arrest by the police. The answer is no.
Unfortunately, this legal fact is not well publicized by the media and has led to many needless, violent confrontations between citizens and the police.
Illinois law regarding a private person's use of force in resisting an arrest is clear:
A person is not authorized to use force to resist an arrest which he knows is being made either by a peace officer or by a private person summoned and directed by a peace officer to make the arrest, even if he believes that the arrest is unlawful and the arrest in fact is unlawful. (720 ILCS 5/7-7)
The reasoning behind the rule is that it is preferable to sort out matters in a courtroom, rather than on the street.
As the Illinois Supreme Court has stated:
In summary, we conclude that an individual cannot resist or obstruct the arrest of himself or another, whether it is legal or illegal. To allow such self-help remedies would create havoc and substantially hinder our police forces' ability to keep the peace. People v. Villarreal, 604 N.E.2d 923, 152 Ill.2d 368, 178 Ill.Dec. 400 (Ill. 1992)