Murder is the act of killing a person with forethought and intent. Illinois primarily recognizes two kinds of murder: first degree and second degree. First degree murder involves killing with specific intent and after premeditation, which describes planning or preparation before the killing. Second degree murder usually has mitigating factors that lessen the severity of the crime. Each individual state in the United States has different penalties for murder in the first degree and the second degree. Just as with every other states’ laws, Illinois laws and punishment for this crime are always evolving.

First Degree

In Illinois, the state can charge someone with first degree murder when the killing happened on purpose, with intent, and with deliberation. First degree murder means killing without justification and with knowledge that the act will likely kill someone or cause major injury. The state may also charge a defendant with murder in the first degree if multiple people, young children, elderly persons, or police officers died. In addition, a killing that occurs during another crime such as rape or burglary may also qualify as first degree murder.

Second Degree

According to Illinois law, the state may charge someone killing in the second degree when the crime resulted in death but the case involves mitigating factors. For example, the person killed may have provoked the defendant, who killed in the heat of the moment. Second degree murder allows for the use of some common defenses such as intoxication, self-defense, and insanity.


In Illinois, a conviction for murder in the first degree will likely result in a sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum of 20 years served. As of 2011, the death penalty no longer exists in the state of Illinois. There is no chance of probation in place of a prison term for first degree murder. Besides sentencing the defendant to a term in prison, the court can also require restitution as well as fines up to $25,000. If the defendant committed the crime while using a firearm, the judge may choose to increase the length of the sentence.

Second degree is a class one felony which can result in probation for up to four years. Although judges have quite a bit of discretion during the sentencing aspect of the tria, the offense also generally requires a sentence of 4 to 20 years in a correctional facility. In Illinois, those convicted of killing in the second degree will also have mandatory parole for two years upon release. Offenders might also have to pay restitution as well as fines up to $25,000.