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How does Illinois define first-degree murder?

| Aug 25, 2020 | Firm News |

First-degree murder constitutes the most serious homicide charge you can face in Illinois. Homicide itself means killing someone deliberately and without authority of law. 

Illinois Criminal Code Chapter 720, Section 5/9-1, contains the laws applying to first-degree murder. As FindLaw explains, for you to receive a first-degree murder conviction, the prosecutor must prove at least one of the following three things at your trial: 

  • That you intended to kill your alleged victim or do him or her great bodily harm 
  • That you knew that the act you intended to commit carried with it the strong probability that it would gravely injure or kill your alleged victim 
  • That you killed your alleged victim while committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony 

As in all criminal prosecutions, he or she must meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof. Basically, this means that he or she must present sufficient evidence to convince the jury that no reasonable explanation for the victim’s death exists other than the deliberate and knowing act you committed. 

First-degree murder penalties

Since 2011, Illinois no longer has the death penalty. Consequently, if convicted of first-degree murder, you face a prison sentence of from 20 years to life. The 20 years represents the minimum mandatory sentence. Per Illinois law, the length of your sentence will depend on the circumstances surrounding and factors involved in the killing. 

Whatever sentence the court imposes on you, you likely will have to serve it in its entirety. Most first-degree murder sentences consist of 20-60 years without parole if no aggravating factors exist. Most first-degree murder sentences imposed when aggravating factors exist consist of 60-100 years without parole, amounting to a life sentence without the possibility of parole.