A first-degree murder charge is one of the most heinous crimes within the criminal justice system. Because of this, it carries the harshest sentencing options.
In most cases, the potential penalty will be life in prison without parole, but the Illinois General Assembly explains the death penalty is on the table if there are aggravating factors present.
Before explaining what constitutes aggravating factors, it is important to understand the rule only applies to adults age 18 and older. The death penalty option is not on the table for minors.
Aggravating factors are circumstances of the crime that increase its seriousness.
Types of factors
Aggravating factors may relate to who the victim was or what his or her profession was. For example, if the victim is a member of law enforcement or fireman and the murder occurred when the victim was on the job or as retaliation to something the person did while doing his or her job, then this would be an aggravating factor.
Factors also include certain situations or locations in which the murder occurred. They also include for-hire situations and the murder of children under the age of 12. Premeditation is also an aggravating factor. Victims over 60 could also result in an aggravated murder charge.
The court may also consider the manner in which the person carried out the murder. Especially excessive or painful methods could become part of the argument for aggravated murder.
There is a long list of things that could influence a first-degree murder charge. Aggravating factors elevate the situation and result in the harshest of all penalties, the death sentence.