Definition of first degree murder.

The essence of first degree murder is an intention killing or knowingly performing an act that leads to death even if death was not completely intended.

In Illinois the first degree murder statue is listed under 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a). It says:

A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death:


(1) he or she either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or
(2) he or she knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or
(3) he or she is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder.

The First Degree Murder Statute Describes 3 Types of First Degree Murder

There are three types of first-degree murder charges in Illinois. The murder statute essentially describes:

  • Intentional Murder
  • Strong Probability Murder and
  • Felony Murder

See the chart below to determine the key feature or requirement of each kind of murder.

Type Statute Requires
Intentional Murder 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) “intends to kill or do great bodily harm”
Strong Probability 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) “creates a strong probability of death or great bodily harm”
Felony Murder 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3) “death during commission of forcible felony”

Here is a general outline of the Illinois murder statute:

(1) Intentional murder is when the defendant “intends to kill or do great bodily harm” or “knows his acts will cause death” (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1));
(2) Strong-probability murder is when the defendant knows his acts “create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm” (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2)); and
(3) Felony murder is when defendant commits or attempts to commit a forcible felony and, during the commission of that felony, a death occurs (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3)).

Sentence & Classification

In Illinois first degree murder has its own special classification. It a class M felony and is normally punishable from between 20 to 60 years, however special enhancements may also apply.

See Also