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What Are the Different Levels of Homicide Charges in Illinois?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Itasca criminal defense lawyerThe phrase “violent crimes” can refer to various types of criminal offenses. Under Illinois law, violent crimes involve harm or the threat of harm to another person. One of the most serious of these offenses is homicide. Illinois law distinguishes between the types or “levels” of homicide as follows: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and involuntary manslaughter/reckless homicide. The main difference between the crimes is the state of mind of the alleged offender at the time of the killing. Generally, this means one act may be intentional or premeditated, while another may be accidental. This key distinction can be very important in building a criminal defense strategy for the defendant. 

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is the most serious homicide charge. According to Illinois law, it is defined as intending to kill or do great bodily harm to another person, while knowing that the act would cause death, and without lawful justification. In other words, the perpetrator acted intentionally, and the killing was not committed in self-defense. 

Felony murder refers to a legal doctrine that states that if a defendant commits a forcible felony (such as armed robbery), and that act results in someone’s death, the offender can be charged with first-degree murder as a result of that death.

The penalty for a Class 1 felony of first-degree murder can range from a 20-year sentence to life in prison. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it can be charged as a Class X felony, which carries a punishment of life in prison. Those convicted of this crime must serve their entire sentence. 

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is considered a lesser homicide charge because it is not premeditated; however, there are still serious consequences for the defendant. These charges stem from instances where someone knowingly and purposefully killed someone but did so with factors that impacted their state of mind at the time of the murder. Examples include murderous acts committed in the heat of passion (such as finding your spouse with a lover), those done after witnessing traumatic events (such as the death of a child), or if someone believes the killing was justified.   

Second-degree murder may carry a sentence of 4 to 20 years in prison. However, offenders may receive probation depending on the details of the incident. 

Involuntary Manslaughter/Reckless Homicide

Involuntary manslaughter includes actions that result in the death of another person through reckless behavior or extreme negligence on the offender’s behalf. The most typical charge of reckless homicide results when a motorist accidentally kills a person while operating a vehicle. This usually occurs when a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), and this impairment directly leads to a car accident, resulting in a fatality. Another example of this type of homicide is when a person accidentally discharges a firearm in a reckless manner, killing another person in the process. In the majority of cases, manslaughter is categorized as a Class 3 felony. Punishment can result in up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Contact an Itasca Criminal Defense Attorney

Homicide offenses of any kind are considered some of the most serious charges in the Illinois criminal justice system. If you or someone you know has been accused of this type of violent crime, the penalties may include life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. That is why it is imperative that you immediately consult a qualified and diligent DuPage County violent offenses lawyer. At the accomplished law firm of Ana M. Mencini & Associates, P.C., we understand how an alleged violent crime can derail your future plans, and we will aggressively represent you to make sure your rights are protected throughout the process. To schedule a confidential consultation, call our office today at 630-875-1700.


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