There are two types of criminal charges in Illinois: felony and misdemeanor. A felony criminal charge is punishable by a year or more in prison, depending on the class of the felony. Illinois, felonies are usually violent crimes such as murder, assault and battery, rape, kidnapping but also include violation of drug laws as well as theft (of a value over $300), arson, possession of child pornography, intimidation, stalking, failure to register as a sex offender, solicitation of murder for hire, bribery and forgery, among others.
There are five classes of felonies in Illinois, ranging from the most serious Class X, which carries a minimum prison term of 6 years, to the lowest level Class 4, which carries a minimum prison term of 1 year.
Certain circumstances of the crime, or aggravating factors, may increase the level of the felony. For example, robbery is a Class 2 felony. However, if the victim was over the age of 60 or physically handicapped, or if the crime took place in a school or place of worship, it is a Class 1 felony.
Oftentimes, first time offenders of certain crimes are charged with a misdemeanor but, if he or she commits the crime again and even if the circumstances are the same as the first offense, the fact that it is a second offense is itself an aggravating factor that makes it a felony. For example, a first time offender may be charged with a misdemeanor DUI (driving under the influence) but the second time, it is a felony DUI.
With drug charges, for example, possession of 2000 grams but less than 5000 grams of marijuana is a Class 2 felony. However, possession of 30 grams of marijuana but less than 500 grams is a Class 4 felony. Unlike other felonies, Class 4 drug felonies, specifically, can be expunged or sealed.
Certain civil rights can also be lost with the conviction of a felony, including voting, owning a weapon and even driving.
If you have been charged with a felony, your goal should be to avoid jail time and/or have it reduced to a misdemeanor. Since felonies cannot be expunged or sealed, except for certain Class 3 and 4 felonies (prostitution, drug possession, retail theft, etc.), potential employers and the public can view felonies that are on your record. Of course if you are innocent of the charges your goal should be a complete dismissal of the case.
Defending a felony in Illinois is much more complicated than defending a typical misdemeanor. It often involves numerous court appearances, significant investigation by your lawyer and lots of work. In our opinion it is extremely important that you hire a lawyer that focuses their practice on criminal defense and has defended hundreds of felonies in the past. Depending on the charges it may also be very important to hire a lawyer that does a lot of work at the court where you are being charged. A good relationship with the prosecutor and/or Judge can often be the determining factor in getting a case reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed.
The bottom line is that if you are charged with a felony in Illinois, your life as you know it is essentially on the line. The right attorney can be the difference between freedom and years in jail with a record that is ruined.
There is no such thing as the "best felony defense lawyer in Illinois", but rather you need to find the best attorney for your unique situation. If you would like our help in finding an experienced criminal attorney with a track record of success please do not hesitate to contact us. We can't guarantee a result, but do promise that we won't recommend anyone to you that we wouldn't hire ourselves.