If you’re facing murder charges, you need an experienced attorney with a proven track record. Gus Kostopoulos is a former prosecutor with over 18 years of criminal law experience. Murder is the most serious crime, and Chicago prosecutors will seek the harshest penalties. Call Chicago murder attorney Gus Kostopoulos today for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 to take your call and meet you in our downtown Chicago office.
Murder Laws in Illinois
In Chicago, when you cause the death of another person you can be charged with a crime of murder. The specific type of murder you will be charged with will depend on the facts and circumstances specific to your case. The driving factor in which type of murder charge you will face is your intent when you committed the crime. Each type of murder charge carries a different potential criminal sentence.
First Degree Murder
First-degree murder [720 ILCS 5/9-1] is the most serious crime you can commit in Chicago. Broadly defined, first-degree murder is the intentional killing of another person without legal justification. Under Illinois law, there are three specific scenarios that can result in criminal charges for first-degree murder. In Illinois, first-degree murder occurs when you kill another person without lawful justification, and:
- Intend to kill or do great bodily harm to that other person, or know that your acts will cause death;
- Know that your acts created a strong possibility of death or great bodily harm; or
- Attempt or commit a forcible felony (other than second-degree murder) at the same time.
If you act with the intent to kill another person and are successful, you will likely face criminal charges for first-degree murder. The crime of first-degree murder requires deliberation and thought. You must have known (or should have known) that the actions you were taking were (1) going to result in the death of another person, or (2) very likely to result in the death of another person.
The exception to this rule exists when you cause the death of another person while you are committing (or attempting to commit) a forcible felony. Forcible felonies include crimes of:
- sexual assault,
- aggravated battery, and
- “any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence.”
If another person dies while you are committing (or attempting to commit) a forcible felony, you can face charges for first-degree murder regardless of your intent.
Second Degree Murder
In Chicago, second-degree murder [720 ILCS 5/9-2] is the crime of first-degree murder, but with a twist. Second-degree murder is defined as committing the crime of first-degree murder, but having a justification for your actions. These justifications, or mitigating factors, do not excuse your behavior. Rather, the mitigating factors can cause you to be charged with the crime of second-degree murder. Second-degree murder carries a less severe penalty than first-degree murder.
There are two specific scenarios that can result in criminal charges for second-degree murder. In Illinois, second-degree murder occurs when you intentionally cause the death of another person, and
- Act under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the victim or another person; or
- Mistakenly believe that the act of killing the other person would have been legally justifiable.
Crimes of passion and excessive use of force in self-defense are two common examples of situations where second-degree murder charges may be applicable. As the defendant, it will be your responsibility to prove that one of these mitigating factors existed at the time of the murder.
Sentences for Murder in Illinois
First Degree Murder Sentence
A conviction for first-degree murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. This means that if you are convicted of first-degree murder in Chicago you will spend no less than 20 years behind bars. Without aggravating factors, first-degree murder can be punished by a maximum of 60 years in prison.
Certain aggravating factors can cause a sentence for first-degree murder to increase. Prosecutors can charge you with aggravated first-degree murder if:
- The victim was a peace officer, firefighter, corrections officer
- The victim was under the age of 12 and the act causing the death was indicative of wanton cruelty;
- The victim was over the age of 60 and the act causing the death was indicative of wanton cruelty;
- The victim’s death was the result of a hijacking;
- The murder was completed in exchange for compensation;
- The victim was killed while you were in the process of committing another felony;
- The victims were killed to stop them from testifying as a witness in a trial;
- The act was committed in a “cold, calculated, and premeditated manner pursuant to a preconceived plan, scheme, or design;”
- The victim was tortured before death; or
- The victim was protected by an Order of Protection.
A conviction for aggravated first-degree murder can be punished by a term of life in an Illinois state prison.
Second Degree Murder Sentence
Second-degree murder is a Class 1 felony in Chicago. If convicted of second-degree murder, you can face between 4 and 20 years in an Illinois state prison.
Defending Yourself Against Chicago Murder Charges
An arrest for murder in Chicago does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of a crime. The prosecution must be able to prove that you are guilty of each element of the crime of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. You can limit the prosecution’s ability to build a successful case against you by hiring an experienced Chicago murder defense attorney to represent you. A qualified and skilled attorney will understand the complexities of Illinois murder laws and know how to develop a successful defense.
One of the most important things to do when defending against criminal charges for murder is to argue any mitigating factors that may apply. Mitigating factors, when successfully argued, can help to limit the criminal sentence that you receive. Mitigating factors that can help to reduce the negative consequences of a criminal conviction include:
- You have no significant criminal record or history of criminal behavior;
- You were under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the act;
- The victim was a participant in the homicidal conduct and/or consented to the act;
- You acted under duress or fear of imminent death or bodily harm;
- You were not personally present at the time the murder occurred;
- You have a history of being emotionally and/or physically abused; or
- You have a mental disability.
These mitigating factors do not excuse the behavior but can cause the sentence that is awarded to be on the lighter side.
Your Chicago murder defense attorney will also argue any defenses that may be appropriate for your case. A defense, if properly argued, can result in the dismissal or reduction of charges. Defenses to murder in Chicago include:
- Lack of required intent;
- Lack of required knowledge;
- Defense of another person;
- Insanity; and/or
- Infringement of Constitutional rights.
Experienced Chicago Murder Attorney
If you have been charged with murder in Chicago it is extremely important to speak with an attorney. The prosecution will begin to build a criminal case against you from the moment you are arrested. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner we can begin to investigate and build a powerful defense. At Kostopoulos Law Group, our Chicago murder attorneys will launch a thorough and in-depth investigation into your alleged crime. We will use the evidence we uncover to attack the prosecution’s case against you. If the prosecution cannot prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be convicted.
If you are convicted of murder in Chicago your life will be changed forever. The best way to minimize the criminal consequences you face is by hiring an attorney to defend you. Contact the Kostopoulos Law Group today for more information about how we can help you fight the murder charges you may be faced with.