Common Defenses to Second Degree Murder Charges

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225When faced with a murder charge in Chicago, you have options. You do not have to immediately admit to the crime. You also do not have to take your chances with a jury to see if it will convict you. Murder is a serious charge, if not the most serious charge, so you need to have a skilled criminal defense attorney by your side to craft a strong defense to the charge. Today, we will examine the common defenses to second degree murder charges so you can fight for your freedom.

Claim Insanity

You have likely heard it on the news before and it might be a good defense for you to attempt if charged with second degree murder, and that is to claim insanity. Even if claiming insanity is permitted in your jurisdiction, it does not mean that it will clear you of the responsibility associated with second degree murder. You could be issued a guilty verdict with mental illness attached to it, which means you still knew what you did was wrong. In other jurisdictions that permit full insanity, if you can prove your mental illness, then you will not be held accountable for the crime.

Defendant was Intoxicated

Another defense many people charged with second degree murder use is that of being intoxicated at the time of the crime. Intoxication is not a guaranteed defense that will relieve you of the charges of murder, but it is well worth the try. There are two types of intoxication defenses you can claim in a criminal case – voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary intoxication occurs when the defendant voluntarily gets drunk at home, at a party, at a restaurant, at the bar, or anywhere else there is access to alcohol. Claiming voluntary intoxication, which clouded your judgment when the crime occurred, will not likely help you fight a second degree murder charge. The amount of intoxication of a defendant is usually taken into consideration when assigning a murder charge.

Involuntary intoxication occurs when the defendant is intoxicated because he or she was drugged by someone else and did not get drunk of his or her own volition. In the majority of circumstances, a defendant who claims and can prove involuntary intoxication will likely have the murder charges dropped. If there was any voluntary intoxication present when the defendant claims involuntary intoxication, this will negate that defense and the charges will stick.


As with many other criminal charges in Chicago, a common defense used to fight second degree murder charges is that of self-defense. It is not as simple as making a claim of self-defense and then having the charges dropped by the court. The defendant will need to meet a handful of requirements surrounding the case in order to prove self-defense was the reason for the killing. Those include the following:

  • The defendant was not somewhere he or she was not allowed to be located.
  • The defendant can not be found to be at fault for the situation.
  • The defendant did not act as the aggressor.
  • The defendant reasonably feared bodily harm or death.
  • The defendant attempted to leave the situation or tried to avoid the danger present.

The argument in favor of self-defense ends once the threat to bodily harm or death ceases to exist. For example, perhaps the defendant was charged with killing someone by shooting him or her, but just took the situation too far. Maybe the aggressor was shot and knocked unconscious, eliminating the threat, but the defendant continued to shoot until the aggressor was killed. This would eliminate the ability to claim self-defense.

If you have questions about second degree murder charges in Chicago, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call the office of David Freidberg at 312-560-7100 today to schedule your appointment.

(image courtesy of Javier Villaraco)

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