Illinois has two levels of assault—simple and aggravated assault—that carry penalties ranging from a class C misdemeanor to a class 3 felony. Below, we review assault crimes, aggravating factors, and the possible penalties for assault in Illinois. (The state also has a separate crime of battery.)
Assault in Illinois is intentional conduct that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence. In other terms, a person assaults another by placing them in fear of a battery (unlawful touching or bodily harm).
For instance, advancing on someone with clenched or raised fists is an assault. So is trying to hit someone and missing. While words alone don't count as assault, threatening to beat up someone, when said in a menacing or angry manner and accompanied by conduct consistent with the threat, does. Pointing a gun or holding a knife or bat over a victim can also be assault.
Assault charges may increase to aggravated assault based on a few factors, including:
For assault charges to be aggravated based on the victim's protected status (such as age or disability), the defendant must know of the victim's status. The same is true for a victim's protected occupation. The law generally requires that the victim be engaged in their professional duties and that the defendant commits the assault based on those duties.
The law defines deadly weapons as firearms, stun guns, Tasers, daggers, switchblade knives, axes, stilettos, bludgeons, metal knuckles, sandbags, billies, and other weapons of "like character."
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-1, 5/12-2, 5/33A-1 (2023).)
Simple assault—with no aggravating factors—is a class C misdemeanor in Illinois. A person convicted of simple assault faces up to 30 days of jail time and a $1,500 fine. If no jail time is ordered, the judge must order 30 to 120 hours of community service.
(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-65 (2023).)
Aggravated assault may be charged as a class A misdemeanor or a class 3 or 4 felony. The harshest penalties for aggravated assault generally involve discharge of a firearm, use of a motor vehicle as a weapon, and assault on a police officer, first responder, or correctional employee. Unlike many other states, Illinois doesn't have a separate crime of "assault with a deadly weapon." Rather every level of aggravated assault has a weapon offense under it.
A class 3 felony is the most severe penalty for aggravated assault. A person commits a class 3 felony if the assault involves:
Class 3 felonies carry prison sentences of two to five years and fines of up to $25,000.
(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-40 (2023).)
Class 4 felony penalties apply when an assault involves specified victims, a weapon, or both. A class 4 felony carries a sentence of one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Victims. It's a class 4 felony to assault a police officer, first responder, correctional or probation officer, correctional or detention center employee, or a process server.
Weapons. A person also commits a class 4 felony by assaulting another by discharging a weapon (not from a vehicle), using a firearm with a laser gun sight or beam and shining that beam at a victim, or driving in a manner that places another in fear of being struck by the vehicle (except those person listed above).
Victim and weapons. Committing assault by using a firearm (other than discharging it) against a police officer, security officer, community policing volunteer, first responder, or law enforcement or traffic control employee also falls under a class 4 felony penalty.
(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-45 (2023).)
The remaining aggravating factors carry class A misdemeanor penalties for aggravated assault.
Location. Assault offenses aggravated based only on the location of the conduct are class A misdemeanors. These offenses include assaults committed on public property, a public way, a public place of accommodation or amusement, a sports venue, or a place of worship.
Victims. It's also a class A misdemeanor to assault persons with disabilities, persons age 60 or older, teachers or school employees on school grounds, park district employees, community policing volunteers, private security officers, utility workers, government employees, transit employees or passengers, or sports officials or coaches.
Weapon or device. The last category of class A misdemeanors applies to the following circumstances—when a person commits an assault while:
A person convicted of a class A misdemeanor faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-55 (2023).)
A person who assaults someone as part of a hate crime can face a separate conviction. To prove a hate crime, the prosecutor must show that the defendant assaulted the victim based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.
A first conviction for a hate crime is a class 3 or 4 felony, depending on the circumstances. Second and subsequent hate crimes are class 2 felonies. A person convicted of a hate crime can face one to seven years in prison, plus a fine of up to $25,000.
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.1 (2023).)
If you face assault or aggravated assault charges, talk to a local criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can protect your rights and zealously defend your case. On top of possibly spending time in jail or prison, having an assault conviction on your record can greatly impact your future, so it's best to speak with a lawyer right away and discuss all of your options and any current and future ramifications.