2nd-degree murder is one of the most serious criminal charges you can face in Illinois. If convicted you could be handed a prison sentence of as long as 20 years as well as substantial fines. These possible life-changing consequences mean that your case should be handled by an experienced attorney who has the specialized skills and knowledge needed to understand your legal options and help you choose your best course of action.
Our professional attorneys at Chicago DUI Defense have the legal experience, skill, and dedication you will need to face your murder charge. By working with private investigators and experts from fields such as toxicology and forensics, our legal team will build an aggressive and persuasive defense for each of our clients. Contact a top criminal defense lawyer in Chicago today to schedule a free initial case consultation to find out how we can help you.
Legal Definition of Second-Degree Murder
It is important to understand exactly what differentiates the different degrees of murder charges in Illinois law. Murder is considered to be the intentional killing of another person. The separation of charges between first-degree and second-degree comes down to the presence of one of two possible mitigating circumstances:
- You were provoked into a state of intense passion or powerful emotion and while attempting to kill the person responsible your actions resulted in either their death or the accidental death of another.
- You believed that one of the factors described in Illinois Code Article 7 that would justify killing the victim existed in your case when it actually did not.
The factors listed in Article 7 include:
- Using force against an individual who is using unlawful force against either you or another person. This may extend to actions likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if you could reasonably believe it was necessary to protect yourself or another from death or serious bodily harm
- The use of force that could result in the death or serious bodily harm against someone trying to enter your home only if they are doing so in a "violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner" that leads you to believe that they intend to cause death or serious bodily harm to either yourself or another individual, or that they intend to carry out a felony offense within your home
- This level of force is used in defense of your other property, or the property of your family only so long as the individual is committing a "forcible felony". A forcible felony is defined in Illinois law as “treason, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, robbery, burglary, residential burglary, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.”
Keep in mind that there are also situations in which the factors outlined in Article 7 may not apply to your case. These include:
- You were attempting to commit or were in the process of committing a forcible felony or were attempting to escape or after committing a forcible felony
- You were the instigator to provoke the initial use of force as an excuse to harm another individual
- You provoked an initial use of force but did not have reason to fear serious bodily harm or death from their response, or you failed to make every effort to escape or deescalate the situation before causing their death
Penalties of a Second-Degree Murder Conviction
While second-degree murder does not carry the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, it can still have severe and life-altering consequences for those convicted and their families. The state of Illinois lists it as a Class 1 felony charge which can result in a minimum prison sentence of 4 years and a maximum of 20. You will also receive a maximum fine of $25,000 and a mandatory 2 years of parole following your release. In some rare cases, the 4-year prison term may be replaced by 4 years of probation. This will depend on the unique circumstances surrounding your case and the specific judge overseeing your trial.
How We Can Help Defend You
Murder trials are often emotionally trying times, and it may seem as if you have no chance of overcoming the charges against you. There are actually a number of common defenses for 2nd-degree murder cases that can be effective depending on your particular circumstances. An experienced attorney will be able to walk you through these and any other options that may be available for you to pursue, and break down how each approach may work.
Common Arguments For Defense Include:
This is by far the most commonly used defense for murder charges. Your attorney will present an alibi, challenge the evidence the prosecution brings against you, and work to demonstrate your innocence to the jury. In criminal trials, it is the prosecution's responsibility to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It will be the goal of your defense attorney to present enough evidence to make the jury doubt your involvement in the crime, as they will be far less likely to find you guilty.
Insanity is a valid defense in Illinois. It is, however, difficult to prove in a court of law. The state requires that an individual have no “substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of [their] conduct" in order to file an insanity plea. Taking it a step further, the burden of proof shifts to the defense to establish through "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant both committed the crime and could not understand the criminal aspect of their actions due to a mental illness. This is a high bar to clear and can be an incredibly difficult defense strategy.
Another common defense in 2nd-degree murder cases is a claim of self-defense. This will follow the guidelines established in Article 7, which we outlined above. Your attorney will demonstrate that you had a right to be where you were when the altercation began, that you responded to the situation with appropriate use of force, and that none of the disqualifying factors from Article 7 apply to your case.
Intoxication can be a difficult subject for your 2nd-degree murder defense. It is divided into two separate types that can have vastly different impacts on your case and whether it is a valid defense option. The two different classifications for intoxication are:
- Voluntary - It is common to see people attempting to assert a lack of responsibility for their actions due to intoxication. This is NOT a valid legal justification for anything in Illinois. In fact, there is a strong chance that your intoxication will be used against you during your trial.
- Involuntary - Involuntary intoxication may be applied as a valid legal defense, but is often extremely difficult to prove. If there was any level of voluntary consumption of intoxicating elements, the entire state of intoxication is viewed as voluntary. You are also unlikely to succeed in using addiction as a claim toward involuntary intoxication.
Work With a Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing a 2nd-degree murder charge is an incredibly stressful process. In addition to the looming possibility of criminal consequences, you are likely to face a number of personal issues as well, as the charges can bring judgment and assumptions from your community and may even lead to job loss. You will need the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney to guide you through this time and ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your case.
A skilled homicide attorney will be critical to building the strongest case possible for your murder trial. Their work can mean the difference between a not guilty vs guilty finding, or you receiving lesser sentences vs the maximum. Our dedicated and experienced professionals at Chicago DUI Defense will fight to protect your rights and get the best possible outcome for you with the dedication and drive that you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.