The answer is in your state of mind. Murder may be committed intentionally or knowingly, whereas manslaughter involves unintentional, if reckless, behavior.
In Illinois, first degree murder means you intended to kill or do great bodily harm to someone, or you knew that your actions would cause or were highly likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another. 720 ILCS 5/9-1. First degree murder also includes a killing that occurs while commiting a forcible felony other than second degree murder. First degree murder has its own set of sentencing rules including the potential for the death penalty.
Second degree murder is like first degree murder with mitigation. Either you were acting under a sudden and intense passion because you were seriously provoked by the person you intended to kill, or you unreasonably believed you were defending yourself or another. 720 ILCS 5/9-2. Second degree murder is a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
Involuntary manslaughter involves unintentional killing where your actons, even if lawful, were reckless and likely to cause death. 720 ILCS 5/9-3. If your actions involved a vehicle such as a car, snowmobile or boat, you may then be charged with reckless homicide. Both offenses are a Class 3 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.
In certain circumstances, reckless homicide can be upgraded to a Class 2 felony, such as if you went speeding through a school zone and killed two or more people.
If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. In many cases, the state charges a higher offense than is warranted by the evidence. In a best case scenario, an attorney can present your case in hopes of winning your acquittal. But even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against you, an experienced attorney may help obtain a verdict or negotiate a plea agreement for a lesser offense.
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. If police did not have a valid reason to stop you, an attorney may be able to ask the court to suppress the evidence from your arrest. Even if the police acted properly and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(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.)