Charges: Petty Offenses, Misdemeanors and Felonies

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Charges: Petty Offenses, Misdemeanors and Felonies

Most people I encounter appreciate the seriousness of a felony charge and understand that a felony conviction may result in prison time.  However, many people do not understand the difference between a pretty offense and a misdemeanor.  Can I go to jail? How much is the fine? Is this part of my criminal record?  These are common and reasonable questions many people or people with family members charged with a crime have and should be answered before coming to a resolution in a case.    

In Illinois, there are three types of criminal offenses: felonies, misdemeanors and petty offenses, which include business offenses. The maximum fine for petty offenses is $1,000 or the amount specified in the statute defining the offense, whichever is less. Most minor traffic offenses, such as speeding, are petty offenses. The possible fine for business offenses exceeds $1,000 and is provided by the statute defining the offense.

Misdemeanors are offenses for which a sentence of imprisonment in a jail other than a penitentiary for less than one year may be imposed. Misdemeanors are divided into three classes, A, B, and C. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by any term less than one year in the county jail; a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by not more than six months in jail; a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by not more than 30 days in jail. A Class A misdemeanor carries a potential fine of up to $2,500 or the amount specified in the statute defining the offense; Class B and C misdemeanors are subject to potential fines of up to $1,500.

A felony is an offense for which a sentence to death or to imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year or more is provided. Felonies are divided into six classes. First-degree murder is a separate class of felony and carries the greatest potential sentence. The others, in descending order of seriousness, are designated Class X and Classes 1 through 4. Examples of Class X offenses include aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, home invasion, and the most serious drug offenses. Second-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, and residential burglary are examples of Class 1 felonies. Kidnapping, robbery, burglary, and arson are examples of Class 2 felonies. Aggravated battery and perjury are examples of Class 3 felonies. Stalking is an example of a Class 4 felony. (The sentencing range for felony offenses is provided in the “Imprisonment” section of this article.) An attempt to commit a felony offense is punishable by the sentence for the offense one class lower than the offense attempted, except for Class 3 felonies that carry the sentence for a Class A misdemeanor. That means the sentence for attempted first degree murder is the sentence for a Class X felony; the sentence for an attempted Class X felony is the sentence for a Class 1 felony; for an attempted Class 2 felony it is the sentence for a Class 3 felony; and attempted Class 3 and 4 felonies are sentenced as Class A misdemeanors.