In Illinois, as in most states, a crime is treated as a misdemeanor if it may be punished by less than a year in a local or county jail. More serious crimes (felonies) are punishable by a year or more in state prison. Petty offenses, which are less serious than misdemeanors, carry only a fine. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/2-7, 5/2-11; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-1-17 (2020)).
Jail sentences aren't the only possible penalty for misdemeanors in Illinois. Instead of, or in addition to, time behind bars, judges may impose any combination of various sentencing alternatives, including:
Any jail sentence must be for a set period of time (a "determinate sentence") and must include a period of mandatory supervised release (similar to parole) after the prisoner gets out.
When a defendant pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, the judge may place the defendant under supervision for a reasonable time (up to two years), with conditions. The judge will then hold off any further proceedings until the supervision period is over. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-15, 5/5-4.5-70, 5/5-5-6, 5/5-7-1 (2020).)
In order of seriousness, misdemeanors are grouped into Class A, Class B, or Class C. Each class has a range of possible sentences or fines, although the laws related to some individual crimes may have different sentencing limits. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-10 (2020).)
The general sentences for Class A misdemeanors in Illinois include:
Examples of Class A misdemeanors include:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3, 5/12-3.2, 5/12-3.4, 5/12-3.9, 5/16-1, 5/16-25; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-55, 5/5-4.5-85 (2020).)
A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor can result in a sentence of:
For instance, the following crimes are Class B misdemeanors in Illinois:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/26.5-3, 5/26.5-5, 5/47-15, 550/4; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-60 (2020).)
Class C misdemeanors, the least serious crimes in Illinois, generally may be punished by:
Crimes that are treated as Class C misdemeanors include:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-1, 5/24-9, 5/26-1; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-65 (2020).)
Some crimes that usually are treated as misdemeanors become felonies under certain circumstances, including:
(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/12-3.9, 5/16-1 (2020).)
A criminal statute of limitations is a time limit for bringing criminal charges. In Illinois, prosecutors may not file misdemeanor charges after 18 months from the date of the alleged crime.
Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, a misdemeanor conviction can still have negative consequences. For instance, any time in jail could potentially lead to loss of your job or even your housing. If you're facing any criminal charges, you should contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights throughout the proceedings and help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible 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.