Classifications for crime are categorized based on the degrees of severity. First-degree murder is arguably the most serious crime that exists and it carries the most severe punishment available to the justice system. First-degree murder is a felony.
According to 720 ILCS 5/9-1, first-degree murder is defined as the killing of another person without legal justification that is either:
- Intentionally meant to kill or cause great bodily harm, or know that such acts will cause death; or
- Know that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm; or
- Are committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony other than second-degree murder.
First-degree murder carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison or the death penalty. The Illinois Legislature has also outlined the aggravating factors for first-degree murder that could lead to the death penalty for offenders 18 or older, which are:
- the victim was a peace officer, fireman, emergency medical responder, teacher on school grounds, disabled person, or Department of Corrections employee killed in the line of duty or in retaliation for performing his duties and the defendant knew or should have known the victim was such a person; or
- The victim was an inmate of a correctional facility killed on institutional grounds; or
- The victim was present in a correctional facility with the knowledge and approval of the chief administrative officer of that facility; or
- The defendant has been convicted of first-degree murder of two or more other people; or
- The killing was a result of the hijacking of a plane, train, ship, bus, other public transportation vessel, or pursuant to any act of terrorism; or
- The killing was done pursuant to a contract; or
- The victim was killed in the course of committing another felony and the murderous acts were actually committed by that defendant or he intentionally caused the injuries that led to death in the course of committing an inherently violent felony; or
- The victim was age 12 or younger or 60 or older and subjected to brutal or heinous cruelty; or
- The defendant committed a murder to prevent the victim from participating in or supporting a criminal investigation; or
- The killing occurred during the commission of a violation of certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act or while engaged in a conspiracy or solicitation to violate the Act; or
- The killing occurred between inmates in a correctional facility; or
- The killing was the result of a cold, calculated and premeditated plan to murder the victim;
- The killing was committed by way of a drive-by shooting; or
- The victim was subject to an order of protection from the defendant; or
- The killing involved the intentional use of torture.
This is an exceptionally long list of aggravating factors. Given the severity of the crime and the threat of capital punishment that could result, it is truly a matter of life and death. The dramatic nature of the crime and the criminal proceedings cannot be met without the assistance of counsel, so call a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney for immediate representation if you or someone you know is facing these daunting charges.