Anyone facing felony charges has a lot on their minds already, but it may still help to understand exactly what a felony in Illinois is and what the immediate future holds. Under Illinois law, a felony is a crime that is typically punishable by imprisonment for over a year, substantial fines or both. Felonies range from Class 4, considered the least severe, to Class X, the most severe. Each class carries its distinct range of possible penalties.
Misdemeanors versus felonies
There’s often a fine line between a felony charge and a misdemeanor, and the state may potentially charge a crime, either. Factors influencing the choice between a felony or misdemeanor level charge include:
- The severity of the crime
- Whether a weapon was involved
- If the individual has a prior criminal record
- The specific harm caused to the victim
Theft, for example, may be charged as a felony if the value stolen was large enough or if there was a weapon involved.
The consequences of felony charges and what you should do
Felonies in violent crimes such as murder, sexual assault and armed robbery, as well as non-violent crimes like fraud, embezzlement and drug offenses. These offenses carry severe consequences like a potential loss of certain civil rights, difficulty finding employment and a definite social stigma that may follow you.
However, Illinois also offers certain rehabilitation programs and alternative sentencing options for eligible individuals. First-time felony drug offenses are eligible for these programs, which is not the norm nationally.
Felony charges are a long way from felony convictions
No matter what you have ahead of you, your legal rights deserve protection. A charge is not a conviction; every individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Your current situation, however difficult, is not the end.