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Felony, Infractions, and Misdemeanors in Illinois

There are three types of criminal violations in the State of Illinois. According to the Illinois Justice System, criminal offenses can either be infractions (also called petty offenses), misdemeanors or felonies. The classification of a crime will usually depend on the seriousness of the crime. The punishment for violations in these different categories also differs in severity as laid out by the Combined Statutes of the Illinois Legislation. As a general rule, petty offenses are punishable with a fine and no jail time, misdemeanors with an upper limit of 1 year in jail, and felonies with a maximum of life in state prison. It is worthy to note that misdemeanors and felonies are punishable by a combination of fines, jail, or prison time. Summarily, Illinois crimes are tried on the basis of this categorization.

What is a Felony in Illinois?

Any criminal accusation should be considered severe, but felony crimes are a lot more severe than misdemeanors. These are the most severe crimes anyone can commit in Illinois.

In Illinois, the justice system sends convicted felons to one of the state’s prisons after conviction. Their sentences could range from anywhere between one year to life-in-prison. The severity depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime.

These circumstances could be;

  • The defendant’s criminal history,
  • The seriousness of the crime,
  • The existence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstance.

Offenders have a better chance of a lower prison term if they can show that they performed a minor part during the violation, or that they had a mental health issue, or tried not to harm any of the victims. However, crimes that affect children are more liable to end in long prison terms.

The Illinois State Bar Association divides felonies into six different classes.

  • First-degree murder, which is the most severe type of felony offense, is in its class. In fact, until about a decade ago, first-degree murder could attract the death penalty.
  • Class X felonies (like making more than 15 grams of meth) are the next in severity. Their prison sentences are generally six to thirty years with no probation but could be as high as sixty years If the judge adds an extension. When a Class X felon is finally released, they must serve three more years of compulsory parole where they will receive supervision from an assigned parole officer.
  • Class 1 felonies (like second-degree murder) are not as severe as Class X felonies. Their prison sentences are generally four to fifteen years but could be as high as thirty years for an extended-term. They can enjoy as much as four years of probation or conditional release. Following the release of a Class 1 felon, they must serve another two years of compulsory supervision by a parole officer.
  • Class 2 felonies (like the unlawful purchase of a gun) are not as severe as Class 1 felonies. They can have as many as four years of probation or conditional discharge. Their punishments are generally three to seven years in prison but could be as high as fourteen years if the term includes an extension. After a Class 2 felon has been released, they must serve an additional two years of mandatory supervision on parole.
  • Class 3 felonies usually carry a possible punishment of within two to five years in prison or as much as ten years for an extended-term. Class 3 felons may enjoy as much as 30 months of probation or conditional release, but they must serve one more year reporting to a parole officer.
  • The Illinois justice system regards felony violations without classification as Class 4 felonies. They are usually punishable with a prison term of up to three or as much as six years when extended. A year of parole is required post-release. Convicted felons can earn as much as 30 months of conditional release.

Aside from incarceration, felony convictions can also attract fines and probation after serving a prison term. These fines are generally no more than $25,000.

What are some examples of felonies in Illinois?

Some Class X felonies are:

  • Shooting a gun while performing aggravated battery,
  • Performing a felony from a lower class while armed with a firearm,
  • Invading a home while wielding a deadly weapon, and
  • Partaking in the production of as much as 15 grams of meth.

Some examples of felonies in Class 1 are:

  • Second-degree homicide.
  • Burglary of a home, religious space, or school, and
  • Unlawful sexual assault. For example, when the accused uses violence, coercion, or in a situation where the victim cannot give consent.

Class 2 felonies include:

  • Illegal acquisition (or attempted acquisition) of a gun,
  • Aggravated battery in a domestic situation which causes severe injury, and
  • Robbery

Class 3 felonies include:

  • Involuntary manslaughter,
  • Theft of assets worth $500 to $10,000, and
  • Possessing less than five grams of meth at the time of a search or arrest.

The following are some examples of felonies considered to be Class 4 in Illinois:

  • Using a victim’s debit or credit card without approval,
  • Selling stolen assets valued at $300 or less online,
  • Possession of an altered or blank drug prescription form without approval.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Illinois?

Yes, anyone can have their court records removed or expunged in Illinois, but only on special cases. According to Compiled Statutes Chapter 20 § 2630/5.2 of Illinois law, felonies can be expunged if they fit the following criteria:

  • A felony court record could be expunged immediately if the accused was arrested for felonies that did not result in a conviction.
    • The court found no probable cause to believe that the accused committed the crime and dismissed the case.
    • The court decided that the accused was innocent of the crime that they were charged with.
    • The person was arrested for a felony but was released and not charged in court.
    • The state of Illinois stopped prosecuting the case for any reason (e.g., lack of evidence), and the court dismissed the case.
    • The case was stricken off with leave to reinstate, but the state did not bring the case back to court within 160 days, so the case was dismissed.
    • The accused completed assigned court supervision by meeting all the court’s conditions while the case was kept open, so the court dismissed the case.
  • They were convicted of felonies that are eligible for expungement. Eligibility for expungement of felony convictions are very rare and can only occur under these particular conditions:
    • The court reversed or vacated the conviction after reviewing the case files, usually after an appeal.
    • The court issued a conviction for a felony, but the accused received a pardon from the Governor of Illinois.
    • Usually, after conviction and serving the required time and paying the required fine: The accused petitioned the Prisoner Review Board and is successful. The Prisoner Review Board will then issue a Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement.
    • The accused was sentenced to qualified probation, and five years have passed.
  • The accused was honorably discharged from service and is now a veteran.

Is Expungement The Same As Sealing Court Records In Illinois?

No, expunging a court record is different from sealing court records in Illinois. Sealing and expungement of criminal records are two different options that remove these records from public view.

When a court orders a record expunged, it is as though the activity never occurred. The charge or case is erased from any public records database where it was previously stored. It would seem like the case defendants are no longer guilty of the charge. If a person were arrested or charged after expungement, it would look like it never happened. They are now able to answer employment questions etc. as though the case never existed. It is more or less like changing history.

A sealed record cannot be revealed to anyone who was not a participant in the case. Sealing a court record requires that agencies with case files hide them from public view. Anyone who wants access would need specific authorizations. The records still exist in agency databases; they are just inaccessible to most people. Some agencies and employers with the right clearance can still view it.

Examples of these employers are:

  • Schools,
  • Hospitals,
  • Organizations that require work around children,
  • Public and government agencies, including police departments and fire departments.

No other employer will be able to view any records that have been sealed.

Law enforcement officers can still access sealed files, although they would need a court order to do so.

One typically cannot expunge felony convictions in Illinois, but there are special conditions that may allow it.

If a petition for expungement is approved;

  • The arresting agency, the State Police, and the FBI will delete or destroy the arrest record.
  • The court clerk deletes the name of the accused from the significant public record, and impounds the files;
  • Law enforcement bodies like the Department of Corrections will still be able to view the expunged record for crimes requiring five years of waiting.
  • The record will no longer surface during if anyone checks the background of the accused.

What are Misdemeanors in Illinois?

Misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies. They include offenses that are punishable by a jail sentence but not a prison sentence. Misdemeanors are grouped into classes that each carry jail time and perhaps a fine. Fine amounts range from $1,500 to $2,500.

  • Class A misdemeanors are punishable by any term shorter than one year in county jail. They carry a potential additional penalty of up to $2,500 or the amount specified in the statute defining the offense.
  • Class B misdemeanors are punishable by no more than six months in jail and could be subject to potential fines of up to $1,500.
  • Class C misdemeanors are punishable by no more than 30 days in jail. And are subject to potential fines of up to $1,500.

What are Examples of Misdemeanors in Illinois?

In Illinois, the most severe class of misdemeanors is a Class A misdemeanor and shoulders the most stringent sentencing of all classes. Illinois law grants that punishment for a Class A misdemeanor must be no more than a year in jail. Examples of common class A misdemeanor crimes include:

  • A first DUI offense conviction,
  • A second DUI conviction, and
  • Shoplifting or retail theft.

Punishment for a Class B misdemeanor must be no more than six months, and the period for probation cannot be more than two years. Examples of Class B misdemeanor crimes in Illinois include the following:

  • Possession of 10 to 30 grams of any substance containing cannabis,
  • Theft of lost or mislaid property whose worth is not more than $500,
  • Criminal trespass on real property

According to the law in Illinois, punishment for a Class C misdemeanor should not be more than 30 days in jail. The period of probation cannot be more than two years, and the convict cannot be fined more than $1,500 per offense or the value specified for the offense. Some Class C misdemeanors include:

  • Assault,
  • Disorderly conduct,

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Illinois?

Statutes Chapter 20 § 2630/5.2 of Illinois law allows the removal of most misdemeanor offenses from public records. In order to be eligible for record deletion, the offender must not be charged with any current crimes or completing a term in jail or probation. The defendant can petition for record deletion only after completing his/her jail term and other probation terms. Some misdemeanors cannot be deleted from public records. Examples of such select crimes include sex offenses involving children, eviction cases, and cases of driving under the influence (DUI).

Can a DUI Record Be Expunged in Illinois?

Convictions for crimes of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot be expunged in Illinois.

Most people with past drunk driving convictions want to know if their records can ever be deleted. Unfortunately, in most cases, it remains on the record forever.

The law in Illinois does not allow the deletion or sealing of a DUI from public records. The only way to remove DUI-related incidents from the public record is if:

  • The defendant was arrested but never charged with the crime,
  • The defendant was found not guilty of the DUI charge,
  • The defendant’s case was dismissed,
  • The defendant applies for a pardon from the Governor of Illinois, and it is issued.

What is an Infraction in Illinois?

Infractions, which are also known as petty offenses, are minor violations of Illinois state law. In contrast to felonies and misdemeanors, petty offenses are the least severe offenses and invite the lightest punishments. Petty offenses in Illinois are generally punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000. Instead of jail or prison time, individuals found guilty of infractions risk paying a fine or doing some community service. Infractions that involve traffic violations can lead to combined points on driving history and eventually cause the loss of a license. Infractions can also include breaches of city codes or municipal ordinances.

What are some examples of Infractions in Illinois?

Some typical examples of infractions in Illinois include:

  • Speeding 26 miles or less over the speed limit
  • Breaking seatbelt laws
  • Possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving with a broken tail or headlamp
  • Noise pollution
  • Making illegal turns
  • Driving while texting.

Failing to appear in court for an infraction hearing or refusing to pay a fine for an offense can land a person in more significant trouble. Charges could be upgraded to a misdemeanor, which could mean that the accused might see some jail time.

Can Infractions be Expunged from an Illinois Criminal Court Record?

Some infractions in Illinois get expunged automatically less than six months after the required fine has been paid. These infractions involve possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis. Most other violations, including minor traffic infractions, cannot be expunged or sealed.

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