Murder Vs. Manslaughter: Criminal Homicide Charges
When a victim dies because of another person’s actions, the law considers this to be a homicide. It does not matter whether the individual who caused the death intended for a death to occur – he or she can be charged with homicide, as long as his or her actions were not justified. Whether a person is charged with manslaughter or murder depends on the circumstances surrounding the death, including whether the death was the result of an intentional act.
Manslaughter and murder are both serious charges that carry steep penalties for convicted individuals. There are different penalties for these different convictions, and in certain cases, it could be possible to strike a plea bargain, lowering a murder charge to a manslaughter charge and drastically reducing the potential penalties.
What Constitutes Murder?
Murder is defined as the act of intentionally killing another human being without lawful justification (such as self-defense). To find a defendant guilty of first degree murder in Illinois, the court must prove that at least one of the following was true when the victim’s death occurred:
- He or she intended to kill or severely harm the victim.
- He or she acted in a way that he or she knew would most likely kill or severely harm the victim.
- He or she was engaged in another forcible felony.
When certain mitigating circumstances are present, a first degree murder charge may be reduced to a second degree murder charge.
What Constitutes Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is defined as the unintentional killing of another person without legal justification to do so. Illinois law recognizes two specific forms of manslaughter:
- Involuntary manslaughter/reckless homicide.
- Voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child.
In most cases, what would be considered voluntary manslaughter in other states will be charged as second degree murder in Illinois. However, Illinois recognizes the act of voluntary manslaughter when it is committed against a fetus. This offense may be charged if an individual felt that his or her actions at the time of the fetus’ death were justifiable or because he or she acted with intense passion after being provoked to attack by another party, negligently resulting in an unborn child’s death.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when an individual causes another person’s death through unlawful or reckless acts. When a death is caused by a person’s operation of a motor vehicle, this is known as reckless homicide. A few examples of reckless and unlawful acts that can result in victims’ deaths include:
- The unlawful use of fireworks within an enclosed space.
- Allowing a fire to burn out of control.
- Speeding in a construction zone.
- Failing to change lanes to avoid an emergency vehicle that is stopped at the side of the road.
- Using an incline in the roadway to make a vehicle become airborne.
Work With an Experienced Geneva Homicide Defense Attorney
If you are facing any type of homicide charge, whether it is a manslaughter charge or a murder charge, you should start working with an experienced Naperville criminal defense lawyer to develop a solid legal defense strategy for your case as soon as possible. The right strategy depends on a variety of factors, including specific facts about your case. Learn more about how the attorneys at Donahue & Sowa can help by calling 630-505-5200 to schedule your free initial legal consultation.