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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Different degrees of homicide under Illinois laws

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2021 | Homicide |

Homicide is a severe crime in Illinois that can easily lead to a death or life sentence. But generally, penalties vary depending on the degree of the felony, which is determined based on the motivation or circumstances surrounding the crime perpetration. 

As much as it’s pretty straightforward for a defendant to tell which type of homicide they committed, the decision depends on the state and the defense attorney’s ability to present evidence supporting or invalidating either of the charges. If you or your relation ends up in a murder suit in Illinois, these are the different degrees of homicide under which you may be charged.

First-degree murder

Under first-degree murder, the court must prove that you knowingly and deliberately caused the death of another person. That is, you had premeditated upon the matter, and you were fully aware the action you took could result in serious bodily harm or death of the victim. First-degree murder falls under class A felony.

Second-degree murder

Second-degree murder is also a class A felony, meaning it equally carries a harsh penalty. The defendant may have committed the murder knowingly, but they were not in their right state of mind. In this case, the court will require evidence to prove the medical or psychological conditions that triggered the defendant to commit the crime. For instance, an angry parent who kills a driver after the driver runs over their child would be charged with second-degree murder.  


Manslaughter is the least severe form of a homicide charge. Manslaughter charges are classified as either voluntary manslaughter (which falls under class B felony) or involuntary manslaughter (a class C felony). 

Homicide is regarded as involuntary if the defendant caused the death accidentally. However, death resulting from an act such as reckless driving is considered voluntary manslaughter and carries a harsher penalty than the former.

What should you do if you have a homicide charge? 

The stakes are relatively high in a homicide case. In case you’re facing a homicide charge, the first step is to engage an experienced homicide attorney to defend you and ensure you have a fair trial. 

Nonetheless, if the court finds you guilty of first-degree murder, your punishment can be either death or life sentence, depending on the intent of the murder and circumstances leading to it. But if your attorney tables evidence to prove your lack of intent or mental incapacity at the time of committing the crime, you may be charged with second-degree murder. This carries a lighter punishment of 10-30 years imprisonment.

In case you caused the death accidentally and are facing a manslaughter charge, your freedom will depend on the circumstances leading to the death and the aggressiveness of your attorney. Otherwise, if the court finds you guilty, your penalty will be 5-15 years jail term for voluntary manslaughter and up to 7 years imprisonment if it’s involuntary manslaughter.