What the Difference Between a Misdemeanor, Felony and Municipal Violation?

Illinois-Felony-MisdemeanorWhat determines how serious a particular criminal charge in Illinois is depends on the potential criminal penalty that the crime carries. The lowest classification of crimes in Illinois is called a Misdemeanor. The highest classification of crimes in Illinois is called a Felony. Generally, any jail sentence for a Misdemeanor must be served in County Jail. Any jail sentence for a Felony must be served in State Prison. Any potential jail sentence for a Misdemeanor is under one year while any potential jail sentence for a Felony is one year or more. The range of penalties for Misdemeanors and Felonies in Illinois depend on what Class the crime you are charged with falls in. Every criminal offense is classified as a Felony or a Misdemeanor and assigned a specific Class. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will know whether you are being charged with a Felony or a Misdemeanor and what class your criminal charge falls in.

Most Misdemeanor cases in Illinois are Class A Misdemeanors. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500. An example of a Class A Misdemeanor is a Retail Theft or a simple Battery. But not all Class A Misdemeanors are treated equally. Domestic Battery is a class A Misdemeanor. However, if you are found guilty of a Domestic Battery, it can never be removed from your record while a Retail Theft can be. In addition, you can receive Court Supervision for a Retail Theft but you cannot receive Court Supervision for a Domestic Battery.

A Class A Misdemeanor that I am seeing more and more in court is Aggravated Speeding. You can be charged with a Class A Aggravated Speeding offense if you are speeding 35 miles or more over the posted speed limit. This crime used to be a simple speeding ticket. That is no longer the case in Illinois. So, if you are speeding 35 miles an hour over the speed limit, then you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a potential jail sentence of up to 364 days in County Jail and a fine up to $2,500.

The next lowest class of Misdemeanors in Illinois is a Class B Misdemeanor. A Class B Misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in County Jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. The most common Class B Misdemeanor cases I see in Court are Criminal Trespass to Land and Telephone Harassment. You cannot be sentenced to more than 180 days in jail for a Class B Misdemeanor in Illinois.

The lowest class of criminal offenses in Illinois is a Class C Misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a Class C Misdemeanor in Illinois is 30 days in county jail and a fine up to $1,500. The most common Class C Misdemeanor case I see in Court is Disorderly Conduct.

The most serious crimes in Illinois are called Felonies. The lowest classification of Felonies in Illinois is for Class 4 Felonies. A Class 4 Felony carries a potential jail sentence of between 1 to 3 years in State Prison. An example of a class 4 Felony in Illinois is an Aggravated Domestic Battery or an Unlawful Use of a Weapon. Most Felony cases in Illinois are Class 4 Felonies.

A Class 3 Felony in Illinois is punishable by between two to five years in State Prison. An example of a class 3 Felony in Illinois would be an Aggravated Battery or Theft involving $300 to $2,000.

A Class 2 Felony in Illinois is punishable by between 3 to 7 years in State Prison. An example of a Class 2 Felony in Illinois would be Theft of between $2,000 to $10,000 or possession of 2,000 to 50,000 grams of marijuana. Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon is a Class 2 Felony in Illinois. However, if you are convicted of Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon, you cannot get probation. You must serve a minimum of two years in prison.

A Class 1 Felony in Illinois is punishable by between 4 to 15 years in State Prison. An example of a Class 1 Felony in Illinois would be Criminal Sexual Assault and Theft over $10,000. Residential Burglary is also a Class 1 Felony in Illinois. However, if you are convicted of a Residential Burglary in Illinois, you are not eligible for probation and you must serve a minimum of four years in State Prison.

The most serious class of Felonies in Illinois is a class X Felony. A conviction for a class X Felony carries a minimum sentence of six years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. If you are convicted of a class X Felony in Illinois, you cannot receive probation. A classic example of a class X felony in Illinois is Criminal Sexual Assault, which is commonly known as Rape.

Murder has its own classification. Generally, Murder is punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of between 20 to 60 years. Any sentence for a Murder conviction must be served in full. You do not get any credit for good time served or any time off the jail sentence.

A Municipal Ordinance Violation is not a criminal offense. I have been seeing a rise in the number of cases prosecuted by municipalities as a Municipal Ordinance Violation. There’s several reasons for that but the good thing is that a Municipal Ordinance Violation does not carry any jail time. The punishment for a Municipal Ordinance Violation is almost always a monetary fine.

The potential punishments for the different classes of Misdemeanors and Felonies is a general discussion. Depending on the facts of the case and your criminal record, you may be looking at a more serious potential penalty. For instance, the age of the victim may increase the potential penalty that you could be facing. Your criminal background may mean that you are facing a more serious potential penalty. You should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal attorney who could should be able to tell you what the potential penalty is that you may be facing.

James Dimeas is a nationally recognized, award-winning criminal lawyer who has been handling criminal cases throughout Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, and Kane County for 25 years. James Dimeas has been recognized as a “Best DUI Attorney, and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago by Expertise. The National Trial Lawyers have recognized James Dimeas as a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer”. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys have named James Dimeas a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” If you are facing criminal charges in Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, or Kane County, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. James Dimeas can always be reached at 847-807-7405.

Additional Blogs:

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing in Illinois, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2017.

What is a Municipal Ordinance Violation and do I Need a Lawyer for a Municipal Ordinance Violation?, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2007.