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criminal law FAQs

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

A felony is any offense punishable by one or more years in prison. A misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 364 days. 


​What are the different types of felonies and misdemeanors?

Illinois misdemeanors range from Class C, the lowest, to Class A, punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail. The lowest level of felony is a Class 4 felony, punishable for 1-3 years in prison. Most felony cases are Class 4, Class 3, and Class 2, which carry a range of 3-7 years in prison. A Class 1 felony carries a range of 4-10 years. Class X felonies carry a 6-30 year range. The highest level of felony is murder, which carries a minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. The death penalty in Illinois was abolished in 2011. Less serious, non-violent offenders end up serving 50 percent or less of their sentences. Under Illinois' Truth in Sentencing Laws, serious, violent offenders serve 85 percent or more of their sentences. 


​What is a criminal conviction?

A criminal conviction is the entry of a non-suspended final judgment of guilt by a court. A conviction becomes a permanent mark on a person's criminal record. 


How do I prevent a conviction?

Hire an attorney competent in criminal law practice. Do not represent yourself in court. If you cannot afford an attorney, ask for the appointment of a public defender. A competent attorney will always seek for an alternative to a conviction. 


Can a conviction be taken off my record?

Generally no. Convictions are permanent. However a final judgment that is suspended by the court (suspended imposition of sentence in Missouri and court supervision in Illinois) may be expunged, or permanently removed, from a criminal record and removed from the court's index of cases. 


The police did not read me my rights. Will my case be thrown out?

The police are not required to read you your Miranda Rights unless you are in police custody and they are asking you to make a statement about the facts. 

The police want me to come to the police department and make a statement about what I did? Should I do it?

Generally you should not give a statement to the police. The police may not be able to prove their case without your statement, and therefore any statements that you make will only make things worse for you. If the circumstances necessitate that you give a statement, you should do so only with your attorney present.  


My job application asks if I have ever been convicted of a crime. I received court supervision as my sentence. How do I answer the question?

If you received a sentence of court supervision, you may answer no to being convicted of an offense. Illinois law specifically recognizes that court supervision is not a conviction. 


What if my job application only asks whether I have ever been arrested?

If your job application asks for arrests, rather than convictions, be sure that you include every arrest, even if the case was eventually dismissed. Only expunged arrests can be omitted from a job application, and even then, some job applications (law enforcement), sensitive military contracting applications, and graduate school level college admission applications might specifically ask you to include any arrests that were expunged. 



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