Under Illinois law, there are a number of aggravating factors for first-degree murder that can result in a life prison sentence upon conviction. These include if the victim was a police officer, correctional officer, or there were two or more counts of first-degree murder. There are dozens of other aggravating factors, some of them highly uncommon like murder during a hijacking of a plane, which can also lead to an aggravated first-degree murder charge.
It should be extremely clear that any individual under investigation for or charged with first-degree murder or second-degree murder faces the possibility of extremely life-altering or even life-ending consequences. The processes included in reaching a verdict are extremely complex and should be handled by an aggressive and highly experienced attorney.
In this dire situation, it is absolutely essential that you contact a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. The longer you wait to reach out for professional legal help, the more your memory of the incident weakens and your case becomes potentially weaker as well.
The official legal definition for first-degree murder can be found under Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/9-1. First-degree murder, also known as premeditated murder, is among the most serious charges that can be leveled at a defendant.
The law is worded carefully in order to incriminate various criminal activity. An individual can be held accountable for first-degree murder if he or she kills someone with clear intentions beforehand or if he or she understands that there is a strong probability that their actions will directly result in another’s death. Additionally, a second-degree murder charge can be elevated to first-degree murder if another forcible felony is committed alongside the murder.
Illinois is no longer a death penalty state, so the maximum penalty is a life term in prison. The minimum penalty upon conviction is 20 years in a state penitentiary. However, aggravating factors can elevate that sentence 15 or more years. On the other hand, there are certain mitigating factors for first-degree murder. In other words, under certain circumstances, the sentence can be lessened to better fit the crime. If the offender was intoxicated during the event or his or judgment was impaired by mental illness, the prison sentence can be lowered.
Second-degree murder is technically defined as first-degree murder with mitigating factors. In other words, the crime involves killing a person, but the charge is lessened when the circumstances make the act less egregious. For example, if an individual kills another in a moment of sudden and intense passion (as opposed to a premeditated plan), then the charge will be second-degree murder. Similarly, if it can be demonstrated in court that the defendant truly believed his or her actions would be justifiable, even though in reality they were not, then a first-degree murder charge can be changed to second-degree murder.
The official legal definition can be found under Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/9-2 . It is important to understand where the burdens of proof lie. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the case meets all the requirements for first-degree murder. If this is not possible, the case will be dropped. However, in the case that this is possible, the burden of proof then lies on the defendant to prove that one or more mitigating factors were present and that the charge should therefore be lessened to second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, or reckless homicide.
Second-degree murder is a Class 1 felony, which typically carries 4-15 years in prison. However, second-degree murder convictions can result in up to 20 years in prison. Unlike first-degree murder, there is a possible alternative for 4 years of probation.
In addition to a prison sentence, a conviction may require a fine up to $25,000. After the prison sentence is completed, there will be a mandatory 2 year parole period. The difference between a 20 year prison sentence plus $25,000 in fines and 4 years of court supervision is clearly
There are certain circumstances that can lead to a first-degree murder case being dismissed outright. The act of killing is justified in some circumstances, some cases involve mistaken identity, and there are numerous strict procedures that police must follow while gather evidence. These scenarios are just a few possible ways a lawyer can defend you.
Additionally, an experienced defense attorney can fight to have the charges lessened to second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, or reckless homicide. Furthermore, if a conviction occurs, a defense lawyer can fight to have the sentence lessened, including a prison sentence, and/or fine.
Contact Michael Schmiege's nationally recognized boutique law firm for a consultation with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who will fight charges aggressively for you. We dedicate the time and resources necessary to give our clients the best possible opportunity for a favorable outcome. Aggressive, skilled legal counsel is always your best chance for a favorable outcome when your future is in jeopardy. Call a qualified defense attorney at our firm immediately to ensure you have strong legal representation in your case.
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