First degree murder is one of the most serious criminal charges a person can face. The key to proving first degree murder, as opposed to second or third degree murder, is intent. In these cases, a prosecutor must be able to demonstrate that the defendant intended to cause serious harm to another person, and a conviction on these charges could lead to a sentence of life in prison.
Under Illinois law, a person can be charged with first degree murder if they kill someone without a justifiable reason, such as self-defense. A prosecutor must typically prove that the defendant intended to cause harm or death, or that they knew that their actions were likely to cause harm or death.
When defending against first degree murder charges, an attorney may take one of two approaches. The first involves showing that the defendant is innocent and did not commit the murder at all. In the second approach, the defendant admits to killing the victim, but they believe that their actions were justified or that the circumstances do not fit with a first degree murder charge. Some potential defense strategies may include:
- Mistaken Identity – It is possible that the defendant had nothing to do with the murder, and they were wrongly identified as a potential suspect. This can often be supported by an alibi, and the defendant may be able to show that they could not have committed the murder because they were somewhere else. Forensic evidence may be presented, and eyewitnesses may be questioned as part of this defense, and an attorney may be able to demonstrate that the crime was committed by someone else.
- Justification – Although murdering someone with intent is a crime, a defendant may have a reasonable explanation for their actions, and this may help avoid a conviction for first degree murder. For example, killing a person while defending oneself or someone else may be justifiable. However, the force used in self-defense must match the danger of the situation.
- Mental Illness – If a person cannot be held responsible for his or her actions, then they cannot be charged with first degree murder. However, there are specific requirements for demonstrating that a person is not guilty for reasons of insanity, and this is not an easy way out of a first degree murder conviction. For example, a person with a condition such as bipolar disorder still has accountability for their actions unless it can be demonstrated that they were in a condition in which they could not differentiate right from wrong.
Contact a Wheaton Murder Defense Attorney Today
A first degree murder conviction can be avoided if the circumstances do not match the crime, and an attorney can help you understand the best defense strategies that may allow you to have the charges reduced or dismissed. Contact a DuPage County criminal defense lawyer today to learn about your legal options when facing murder charges. Call our offices at 630-933-8400 to schedule a free consultation.