Under the Illinois felony murder law, you can be convicted of first degree murder if you kill another person without lawful justification while committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder. A forcible felony includes offenses such as aggravated battery or other crimes of violence. To convict you, the state must show that your felonious actions set in motion the chain of events that led to the victim’s death.

But what if the death came before the felony? One Illinois court overturned a defendant’s conviction on just those grounds. In People v Space, the defendant shot the victim to death before shooting at a third party. The defendant was convicted of felony murder based on the aggravated battery with a firearm to the third party. Under those circumstances, the court said that the act causing the death occurred before the underlying felony. Therefore, the state could not prove all the elements of felony murder, and the defendant’s conviction was overturned.

The distinction between felony murder and other types of first degree murder may seem largely academic. The above defendant was still convicted of the aggravated battery with a firearm. The difference lies in your state of mind. First degree murder requires the state to prove you intended to kill. Under felony murder, the state need only show that you caused the death. Thus, felony murder may be easier for the state to prove.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its possible defense. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. See Illinois First Degree Murder Statute.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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