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Illinois Second Degree Murder Laws

Second degree murder is similar to first degree murder in Illinois, except that it is has certain mitigating circumstances which lessen the charge to second degree murder. Under Illinois second degree murder laws, in order to get a conviction for the offense, the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant killed an individual without lawful justification and either:

  • Intended to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual (or knew that the act would do so); or
  • Knows that the acts create a strong probability of causing death or great bodily harm to the individual.

If the prosecutor is able to prove either of the above two circumstances, it is the defendant's duty to prove either of the following mitigating circumstances for second degree murder (if he cannot, he can be convicted of first degree murder instead):

  • At the time of the killing, he/she was acting under a sudden and intense passion due to being seriously provoked by either the victim or another person whom the defendant tried to kill but negligently ended up killing the victim instead; or
  • At the time of the killing, he/she believed that the killing would have been lawfully justified but the belief was unreasonable.

To be seriously provoked, the provoking conduct of the victim (or another person) must be something that would cause any reasonable person to become impassioned. It is important to note that the defendant is responsible for showing proof of either of the mitigating circumstances. If he/she is unable to do so, the prosecutor may successfully charge him/her with first degree murder. This is a far more serious crime in Illinois since Illinois is a capital punishment state and there is possibility that the defendant could get the death penalty if found guilty.

Overview of Illinois Second Degree Murder Laws

The following chart provides basic information about the defenses and penalties that relate to second degree murder in Illinois:

Statute Second Degree Murder - Criminal Code of 1961, Article 9, Sections 9-2
Defenses to Second Degree Murder Charges
  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication
  • Self-defense

NOTE: If none of the criteria are met for second degree murder, the defendant may still be found guilty of a lesser murder charge.

See Second Degree Murder Defenses for more details.

Penalties and Sentences Illinois second degree murder laws charge the offense as a Class 1 felony. This carries a sentence of between four and twenty years in prison. Depending on the leniency of the judge and the circumstances of the crime, a four-year probation term instead of prison may be an option. The maximum fine is $25,000 plus a surcharge of $3,125. Upon release from prison, there is a mandatory two year parole period.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Second degree murder may not be the most serious crime you can get charged with in Illinois, but it's pretty close. A lawyer's advice can be a critical part of your defense. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case review to discuss your options.

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