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Illinois Voluntary Manslaughter Laws

Under the criminal laws in Illinois, homicide, which is the intentional or unintentional killing of a human being, occurs either by murder or manslaughter. Murder generally involves an intentional killing, while manslaughter, defined as the unintentional killing of an individual without lawful justification, does not.

While most states specify multiple acts that can constitute voluntary manslaughter, Illinois only recognizes voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child, which can occur either:

  1. When the offender, at the time of the killing, acts under a "sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by another whom the offender endeavors to kill, but he negligently or accidentally causes the death of the unborn child"; or
  2. When the offender intentionally or knowingly kills an unborn child and, at the time of the killing, believes that the circumstances justify or exonerate the killing under justifiable use of force principles, but the belief is unreasonable.

In the former instance, the "serious provocation" experienced by the offender must be conduct that would excite an intense passion in a reasonable person.

The offense of voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child differs from that of involuntary manslaughter of an unborn child in that the latter crime generally requires the "less culpable" mental state of recklessness. In other words, there must be a conscious disregard in the offender's actions that create a "substantial and unjustifiable risk" of death or serious bodily harm to an unborn child. Voluntary manslaughter, on the other hand, requires the more culpable mental states of "knowingly" or "intentionally," at least with respect to offenses arising from a "serious provocation."

Illinois Voluntary Manslaughter Laws at a Glance

The following table lists the charges and potential penalties under Illinois voluntary manslaughter laws.


Illinois Statutes Section 9-2.1 (voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child)

Penalties and Sentences

Voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child is a Class 1 Felony punishable by one or several of the following penalties:

  • 4 to 15 years in prison;
  • Periodic imprisonment of up 3 to 4 years;
  • Probation or conditional discharge of up to 4 years;
  • A fine of up to $25,000; and
  • Restitution.

See Voluntary Manslaughter Penalties and Sentencing for more details.


Voluntary manslaughter defenses can include:

  • Consent of pregnant woman (for acts committed during an abortion)
  • Act committed pursuant to "usual and customary standards of medical practice" during diagnostic testing or therapeutic treatment
  • Infancy (for persons less than 13 years of age)
  • Insanity
  • Self-defense/defense of others

See Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses to learn more.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Illinois Voluntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Arrested for Voluntary Manslaughter in Illinois? Talk to an Attorney

When it comes to homicide cases, it's critical to have strong representation as early as possible in the process. After all, there are a number of different criminal charges that you could be facing, some less severe than others. Contact a qualified and trusted criminal defense attorney who can explain how the laws apply in your case and provide you with an honest assessment of the evidence against you.

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