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Understanding Illinois Murder Charges

 Posted on December 21, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Cook County criminal defense lawyerMurder charges of all types carry serious penalties that can upend the life of anyone convicted. Killing another human being is wrong, and Illinois courts will look to penalize anyone who engages in such a heinous act. However, the circumstances surrounding murder charges are not always so cut and dry, and understanding the different murder charges a defendant can face may be the difference between a few years to life in prison. The different types of murder in Illinois include:

  • First-Degree Murder
  • Second-Degree Murder
  • Involuntary Manslaughter
  • Vehicular Homicide

Anyone facing charges of this kind will require an experienced attorney to help navigate the complexity of the charges and develop a sound defense for your trial.

First-Degree Murder

Illinois does not have a capital murder charge. So, anyone facing a charge of first-degree murder in Illinois does not have to worry about receiving the death penalty since it has already been abolished in the state. That makes first-degree murder the most serious murder charge one can face in the state of Illinois.

For a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully killed another human being and at least one of the following:

  • The defendant had the intention to kill or do great bodily harm to the person
  • The defendant knew their actions would cause death or great bodily harm to the person
  • The defendant intended to induce a forcible felony, which resulted in the death of the person

A defendant convicted of first-degree murder can face 20 to 60 years in prison. Aggravated factors can steepen the penalty to life in prison. If convicted, a defendant must serve their entire prison term.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder and first-degree murder are very similar, with only a few circumstances that see the charges reduced. Just like a first-degree murder charge, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant intended to kill or do great bodily harm to another person. For a second-degree charge, the defendant will need to prove one of the following:

  • The defendant acted in a sudden and intense passion due to serious provocation, which resulted in the death of another person
  • The defendant assumed killing the other person would have been justified under the law, but the killing was ultimately found unreasonable

Failure to prove one of these circumstances could see the defendant facing a first-degree murder charge instead. A second-degree murder charge is punishable by four to 20 years imprisonment and a possible probation term of four years.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A defendant who unintentionally kills another human being may face a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Manslaughter is a reckless homicide charge where the defendant accidentally kills someone, either lawful or unlawful. An example would be a robbery with a gun where the gun goes off, killing a store clerk unintentionally. The defendant would then face a charge of involuntary manslaughter along with a robbery charge.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a prison sentence of three to five years and can be elevated to three to seven years for aggravating factors. Probation is an option if the court deems it one.

Reckless Homicide

Involuntary manslaughter is considered a reckless homicide. However, in the state of Illinois, a reckless homicide is also referred to as vehicular homicide as it involves a motor vehicle. All reckless homicides without the inclusion of a motor vehicle are then charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Reckless homicide often occurs when the defendant is allegedly driving under the influence (DUI) and crashes into and kills another human being. In this scenario, the defendant will be on the hook for multiple charges, which include a DUI and reckless homicide.

The charges for reckless homicide are the same as involuntary manslaughter.

Contact a Cook County, IL Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal charges involving the murder of another human being should always be taken seriously. You should never attempt to face these charges alone. Once these charges are lobbied against you, your first call should be to a Chicago, IL homicide defense lawyer like one from the Luisi Legal Group. Contact the office at 773-276-5541 immediately for a free consultation to begin discussing a defense strategy.

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