In Illinois (as in most states), crimes are considered felonies if the potential punishment includes at least a year in state prison (or the death penalty). In contrast, misdemeanors in Illinois are punishable by less than one year in county jail.
Illinois law groups felonies into different classes for purposes of sentencing. The most serious felonies are first-degree murder (which is in its own class) and Class X felonies. After that, in descending order of seriousness, are Class 1 through Class 4. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/2-7, 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-10 (2020).)
After a defendant pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony, the judge will impose one or more of the penalties allowed under Illinois law for that class of crime, including:
Except for life sentences, every sentence of imprisonment must also include a period of mandatory supervised release (known as parole in most states) after the defendant has served the time in prison. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-15, 5/5-7-1 (2020).)
The statutes related to particular crimes will specify the class of felony to which that crime belongs. In general, a judge must impose a sentence within the range for the relevant felony class. However, some individual felonies have sentence ranges that are different than the class as a whole.
In addition, Illinois law calls for more severe sentences under certain circumstances. Judges may sentence defendants to longer terms of imprisonment (called extended terms) based on a long list of aggravating factors, including when the defendant:
The state also has special sentencing guidelines for defendants who are convicted of certain weapons charges and have previous convictions. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-10, 5/5-4.5-110, 5/5-5-3.2, 5/5-8-2 (2020).)
First-degree murder is in its own class of felony in Illinois. Anyone convicted of first-degree murder must be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 60 years in prison (or between 60 and 100 years for an extended term). The sentence will be life in prison or death penalty when certain aggravating factors are present. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/9-1; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-20 (2020).)
Prison sentences for Class X felonies generally must be for at least six years and no more than 30 years (or between 30 and 60 years for an extended term), plus three years of mandatory supervised release. Judges may not sentence anyone convicted of a Class X felony to periodic imprisonment, probation, or conditional release. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-25 (2020).)
Class X felonies include:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3.05, 5/19-6, 5/33A-1, 5/33A-2, 5/33A-3, 646-16 (2020).)
In general, Illinois law sets the prison sentence for Class 1 felonies at between four and 15 years (or 15 to 30 years for an extended term), plus two years of mandatory supervision. Unless the defendant committed the crime while serving probation for a previous felony, judges may impose a sentence of probation or conditional discharge for up to four years. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-30 (2020).)
Some examples of Class 1 felonies:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/9-2, 5/11-1.20, 5/19-1, 5/19-3 (2020).)
Prison sentences for Class 2 felonies in Illinois are generally between three and seven years (or between seven and 14 years for an extended term), plus up to two years of mandatory supervised release. The judge may impose a sentence of periodic imprisonment (between 18 and 30 months) or up to four years of probation or conditional release. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-35 (2020).)
Class 2 felonies include:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3/3, 5/18-1, 5/24-3.5 (2020).)
Illinois Makes It a Felony to Attack a Store Worker for Enforcing Rules on Wearing Face Masks During Coronavirus Pandemic
In August 2020, Illinois enacted a law that makes it a Class 3 felony to attack a retail worker who's relaying the store's health and safety policies or the rules, guidelines, or recommendations issued by a public health agency during an emergency or disaster—such as requirements for wearing a face mask or practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law added attacks on these merchants to the circumstances that turn simple battery into aggravated battery (as discussed below). In this context, it's worth pointing out that battery includes any physical contact of a provoking or insulting nature, and that Illinois courts have long interpreted that to include deliberately spitting on someone. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3.05 (2020).)
Class 3 felonies generally carry a potential prison sentence of between two and five years (or an extended term between five and ten years), plus one year of mandatory supervised release. People convicted of a Class 3 felony may be sentenced to periodic imprisonment for up to 18 months or to probation for up to 30 months. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-40 (2020).)
Crimes that are categorized as Class 3 felonies include:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3.05, 5/16-1, 646/60 (2020).)
A Class 4 felony is usually punishable by:
Crimes that are designated as felonies but aren’t given a classification are considered Class 4 felonies. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-45, 5/5-4.5-85 (2020).)
Following are a few examples of Class 4 felonies in Illinois:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/16-30, 5/16-40, 5/17-38, 570/406.2 (2020).)
In addition to a sentence of imprisonment and/or probation, judges may order convicted defendants to pay a fine and/or restitution to their victims for their financial losses resulting from the crime. In general, felony fines are between $75 and $25,000, but some crimes may set different limits. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/5-4.5-15, 5/5-4.5-50 (2020).)
A statute of limitations is a time limit for filing a legal case—in the case of criminal proceedings, for filing charges. The criminal statute of limitations in Illinois for felonies is generally three years from the time of the alleged crime. But some very serious felonies (like murder or sex crimes) have no time limit, and some other crimes have extended limitations periods.
A felony conviction can have serious, long-term consequences. Besides a prison sentence, having a felony on your record can make it difficult to get a job, obtain a professional license, or get into certain educational programs, such as law school or nursing school. If you are charged with a felony in Illinois, the best way to avoid a conviction is to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome under the circumstances.
Look Out for Legal Changes
Illinois could change its laws at any time. You can find the current version of any statute mentioned in this article with this search tool. Be aware, however, that court opinions affect how these laws are interpreted and applied. That's another good reason to consult a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.