In Illinois, there are three types of crimes: petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. Petty offenses are minor violations punishable only by fines. The next level is misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to one year in jail. Finally, the most serious category of offenses is felonies. They are punishable by anywhere between one year and life imprisonment.
Illinois recognizes five classes of felony, in addition to first-degree murder. Beyond the possibility of spending many years in prison, if convicted, there are numerous other long-term consequences of being a convicted felon in our state.
Clearly, any felony-level charges should be taken very seriously. The first step is understanding how felonies are handled in Illinois, and knowing the potential criminal penalties you could face if convicted. To this end, we’ve provided a breakdown of felony classifications and penalties in Illinois, and summarized the felony process.
Felony Classifications and Penalties in Illinois
As mentioned above, Illinois has five felony classes.
Class X Felony. This is the most serious class of felony, and includes violent crimes such as battery with a firearm. A class X felony is punishable by:
- 6-30 years imprisonment
- Extended term of 30-60 years
Class 1 Felony. Class 1 felonies generally cover grievous offenses such as sexual assault. A class 1 felony is punishable by:
- 4-15 years imprisonment
- Extended term of 15-30 years
Class 2 Felony. A class 2 felony is a serious offense, including such crimes as criminal transmission of HIV. A class 2 felony is punishable by:
- 3-7 years imprisonment
- Extended term of 7-14 years imprisonment
Class 3 Felony. Many forms of assault and battery are prosecuted as class 3 felonies. A class 3 felony is punishable by:
- 2-5 years imprisonment
- Extended term of 5-10 years imprisonment
Class 4 Felony. This is the least serious class of felony, and includes offenses such as theft. A class 4 felony is punishable by:
- 1-3 years imprisonment
- Extended term of 3-6 years imprisonment
In addition to these five classes, there is a completely separate category for murder:
Murder. May be punishable by:
- The death penalty
- Life imprisonment
- Prison term of 4-100 years
Also, if certain aggravating factors are present, you may be sentenced to an extended prison term, which is generally about double the original sentence.
Many factors can lead to an extended sentence. Common examples include:
- Prior criminal convictions of the defendant, especially for similar crimes
- The crime was a hate crime
- The victim was a minor child, over 60 years of age, or otherwise vulnerable.
The Felony Process in Illinois
Regardless of the classification, the process for a felony charge is handled the same way, and proceeds through the following steps:
- Arrest: If you are immediately taken into police custody for the offense, the Illinois Felony Review Office will determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge you with a felony.
- Bond Hearing: You will be brought before a judge within 72 hours of your arrest. He or she will determine the terms of your release, which may include posting bond for a certain amount of money.
- Indictment: The state presents the case to a grand jury of 18 citizens, who determine if you will be formally charged with a felony.
- Assignment to Trial Court: If you are indicted, the case is assigned to a judge who will supervise the case.
- Arraignment: After the case is assigned, you will be formally admonished of the charges against you in an arraignment.
- Discovery: This is the process of gathering evidence that can support your guilt or innocence.
- Plea Agreement: Many cases end in plea agreements, in which the state, defense attorney, and defendant agree what penalty will be imposed if the defendant enters a guilty plea.
- Trial: If a plea agreement is not reached, it will proceed to trial, where a jury of 12 citizens will determine if you are guilty or not guilty of the offense.
Any class of felony is a serious offense with severe criminal penalties. If you find yourself facing felony-level charges, it is imperative to be proactive by fighting back against your charges with the strongest defense possible.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.