Understanding Murder Charges in Illinois

first degree murder, second degree murder, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyMurder may be the most serious crime of which an individual can be accused. The unlawful taking of another’s life directly impacts not only the victim and his or her family, but can result in the most severe penalties allowed by law to the perpetrator.

Under Illinois law, there are two degrees of murder charges and conviction requires the demonstration by prosecution that the accused intended to kill the victim or knew his or her actions could cause major harm to the victim. The exception to this requirement would be a death occurring in the act of committing a felony, such as rape, arson, or burglary. In such a case, murder charges may still be brought against the perpetrator regardless of intent.

First Degree Murder

In order to justify charges of first degree murder, the state of Illinois requires that an accused individual either:

  • Acted with the intent to kill or cause great bodily harm to the victim;
  • Was aware that his or her actions created a strong possibility of death or great bodily harm to the victim; or
  • Caused the death of the victim while attempting to commit or committing a forcible felony, aside from second degree murder.

Circumstantial factors, including the age, condition, and public-service role of the victim may contribute to the sentencing of an individual convicted of first degree murder.

Second Degree Murder

Charges of second degree murder require similar justification regarding knowledge and intent under the law. However, certain mitigating factors in the case may lead to indictment on second degree murder charges instead of first degree murder. These considerations include:

  • The accused was acting under intense and sudden passion provoked by the victim or another person, and while acting to kill the other person, accidentally killed the victim; or,
  • The accused was acting on the belief the killing was lawfully justified, but that belief was proved not to be reasonable.

In common terms, second degree murder generally encompasses actions that occur in the “heat of the moment,” as the law specifies mitigating provocation to be anything that would create intense passion in any reasonable person. This generally precludes pre-meditated killing from being prosecuted as second degree murder.

Finding the Right Defense Lawyer

If someone you love has been accused of first degree murder, second degree murder, or any other type of violent crime, contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney today. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney, our team has worked with hundreds of clients facing difficult circumstances and is prepared to provide you with the help you need.

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