When you live in a big city like Chicago, you can’t help but pay attention to the crime rate, specifically the number of shootings and murders you might be exposed to on a regular basis.
Although the number of shootings during the first half of this year is down from the number in 2016, the number of murders still isn’t decreasing.
From January 1 to June 30, there were 1,385 shootings in Chicago – a 12.1 percent decrease from the previous year. It should be noted, though, that this number does not include the additional 101 people shot over an especially violent Fourth of July weekend.
As far as murders go, so far this year 335 people have been killed with at least 15 others killed during the Fourth of July. Looking only at June, there were 46 murders in 2015, 74 in 2016, and 82 this year.
With murders on the rise in our city, it’s more important than ever to understand the Illinois laws regarding murder and the best defenses that are available if you are charged with this serious crime.
Understanding Murder Charges in Illinois
In our state, you can be charged with first or second degree murder depending on the circumstances of the crime. Let’s look at the details of these two different offenses.
Murder in the First Degree. First degree murder is the most serious murder crime. According to the law, a person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if:
- He intends to kill or cause great bodily harm;
- He knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm; or
- He attempts or commits a forcible felony other than second degree murder.
In 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty, so the maximum punishment for a first degree murder charge is life imprisonment.
Murder in the Second Degree. Second degree murder is similar to first degree murder, but there are certain mitigating factors – factors that make the crime less severe – that reduce the charge to second degree murder.
A prosecutor has to prove that a person killed an individual without lawful justification and either intended to kill or cause great bodily harm or knew that such acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. If the prosecutor can prove either of these factors, then the defendant should offer evidence supporting either of these mitigating factors:
- The defendant acted on a sudden and intense passion after being provoked at the time of the killing; or
- The defendant thought the killing would be lawfully justified but that belief was unreasonable at the time of the killing.
If the defendant cannot prove either of these factors, the defendant could be convicted of first degree murder.
Second degree murder is a Class 1 felony punishable by 4 to 20 years in prison.
Common Defenses for Illinois Murder Charges
If you’re charged with murder, hiring an experienced Illinois murder defense lawyer should be your first priority. A skilled attorney will be an incredibly important asset to defend against your charges and fight for your rights. Common defenses for murder charges include:
- Lack of intent;
- Lack of knowledge;
- Intoxication; and
A qualified attorney will be able to determine the best defense strategy for you depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. Reach out to an Illinois defense lawyer today to get started.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.