Illinois Criminal Law

What Is Criminal Law in Illinois?

There are a variety of laws in Illinois that impact the rights of individuals charged with crimes in the state. Many of these laws are discussed below. It is important to understand the nature of the charges that you are confronting and the potential penalties if convicted of the crime.

Types of Crimes in Illinois

Illinois has many different types of conduct that is considered illegal. There are a variety of crime types, including the following:

DUI and Alcohol Related Crimes

These crimes include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, public intoxication and a minor in possession of alcohol. This last crime can be charged even if the minor did not cause an accident and did not harm anyone.

Drug Possession and Sale

Like other states, being in possession of controlled substances is outlawed. In Illinois, heroin, cocaine and other drugs are considered controlled substances, and the compounds used to manufacture them are also considered controlled substances. The use, possession and manufacture of marijuana is criminalized under the Cannabis Control Act in Illinois. Crimes under this category also include the manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substances.

Violent Crimes

These crimes include homicide, assault and battery. Assault is the act of cause a person to be in reasonable apprehension of you harming them. Battery consists of actually making physical contact with the person and harming them. Assault and battery may be considered aggravated when certain factors are involved. Assault and battery with a deadly weapon carries increased penalties. Domestic violence is also listed under this category. These crimes involve violent actions taken against family or household members.

Sex Crimes

There are a number of recognized sex crimes in Illinois, including rape and statutory rape. Illinois criminalizes the act of minors sharing nude or explicit photos over electronic devices. It also criminalizes the act of risky behaviors when someone has HIV. It also criminalizes posting or distributing intimate videos, photos or images of someone as revenge porn. Prostitution and pimping are also outlawed in the state.

Theft-Related Crimes

These crimes include taking property from someone else that does not belong to the defendant with the intent to keep it or benefit from it. Theft-related crimes pertain to the theft of automobiles, merchandise, personal belongings and even identities. Illinois has specific laws related to carjacking and failure to return a rental vehicle.

Illinois also has specific laws related to burglary, which is defined as entering a structure with the intent to commit another crime once inside. Home invasion involves entering an inhabited dwelling and causing injury, using force, or threatening to use force while armed.

Shoplifting can result in both criminal and civil consequences. A criminal conviction can result in jail time and fines. Additionally, the merchant can sue the shoplifter in civil court for damages.

Illinois' petty theft law outlaws the act of taking property or services without authorization with the intent to steal them.

Classification of Crimes in Illinois: Felonies

Felonies are the most serious type of crime in Illinois. They are crimes that are punishable by the death penalty or by a term of one year or more in state prison. Felonies in Illinois are classified as Class X, 1, 2, 3, and 4 felonies. These felonies are described below.


Murder in Illinois is punishable by the death penalty. Alternatively, defendants may receive a term of life imprisonment or a term between 4 and 100 years.

Class X Felonies

Other than murder, Class X felonies are considered the most serious type of felonies in Illinois. These crimes can result in imprisonment between 6 and 30 years' imprisonment. However, if there is an extended term, conviction can result in imprisonment between 30 and 60 years. Battery with a firearm falls under this class.

Class 1 Felonies

Class 1 felonies like sexual assault are punishable by 4 to 15 years imprisonment. Extended-term class 1 felonies can result in a prison sentence between 15 and 30 years.

Class 2 Felonies

Class 2 felonies can result in imprisonment of 3 to 7 years or 7 to 14 years in the case of an extended term. Criminal transmission of HIV is considered a class 2 felony.

Class 3 Felonies

Aggravated assault and battery and other class 3 felony is punishable by 2 to 5 years' imprisonment. An extended class 3 felony is punishable by 5 to 10 years imprisonment.

Class 4 Felonies

Class 4 felonies are punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison or an extended term of 3 to 6 years in prison. Theft of government property worth less than $500 is considered a class 4 felony.

Extended Terms

Aggravating factors may make sentences harsher in Illinois. This is referred to as an "extended term" in Illinois. Examples of aggravating factors include:

  • The crime is considered a hate crime
  • The victim was over the age of 60
  • The defendant has other criminal convictions

Felony Fines and Restitution

In addition to potential imprisonment, felony defendants may be required to pay a fine up to $25,000. Additionally, defendants may be required to pay restitution to criminal victims for any costs they incurred as a result of the crime.

Classification of Crimes in Illinois: Misdemeanors

A misdemeanor in Illinois is a crime with a maximum punishment of less than one year in local or county jail. Misdemeanors are classified under Class A, B, or C. These crimes are discussed below.

Class A

This is considered the most serious class of misdemeanors in Illinois. Victims may face up to one year in jail, two years of probation and a fine up to $2,500. Prostitution falls under this class of crimes.

Class B

Individuals convicted of a class B misdemeanor face a maximum penalty of six months in jail, two years of probation and a fine of $1,500. Possession of 2.5 to 10 grams of marijuana falls under this classification.

Class C

Class C misdemeanors can result in a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, two years of probation and a fine of $1,500. Possession of less than 2.4 grams of marijuana is considered a class C misdemeanor.

Criminal Court Process

If you were arrested and charged with a crime and the prosecutor files charges against you, it is important to understand the criminal court process. There are various steps involved in this process. A typical process of a criminal charge involves the following steps.

Police Investigation

A police investigation usually officially commences a criminal case. Law enforcement officers may question a suspect after a crime is reported or may conduct a search of the person's home. In other situations, the case begins with a traffic stop.


If police have probable cause to believe that a person committed a crime, they may arrest the suspect. Once the police take the suspect into custody, they issue a Miranda warning to inform the criminal defendant of his or her rights, such as the right to remain silent and to hire a lawyer.

Bond Hearing

The next step is for the defendant to appear in bond court. Based on the threat to the community, flight risk, the defendant's criminal history and other factors, the judge determines whether the defendant can be released. If the defendant can be released, the judge establishes the amount of bond that must be paid and other conditions of release. Once the defendant posts bond, he or she is released. If the judge determines the defendant cannot be released or the defendant does not have the money or resources to post bond, he or she remains in police custody.

Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury

For felony cases, the defendant is charged with a crime through a preliminary hearing or grand jury process. A preliminary hearing requires the prosecutor to present a summary of its evidence to a judge who decides whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the charged crime. If the judge determines this, the defendant is formally charged by an information.

If the case is brought before a grand jury, 16 people determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime for which he or she is charged. If the grand jury determines this, he or she is charged by an indictment.


The next step of the process is the arraignment during which time the judge informs the defendant of the nature of the charges against him or her, as well as the possible penalties. At the arraignment, the defendant pleads "guilty" or "not guilty." Typically, this hearing does not occur until the defendant has a defense lawyer.


The discovery process allows the defendant's lawyer to review the evidence against the defendant, such as police reports, witness statements, photos, videos and physical evidence. The lawyer may also interview witnesses during this stage of the case.

Plea Bargain

A plea bargain may be considered at any stage before a verdict is entered. A plea bargain may result in dismissing some of the charges, reducing the charges or decreasing the amount of time the defendant will serve.

Pre-Trial Motions

The defense lawyer may make a series of motions before the trial, such as motions to exclude certain evidence or to have the case dismissed.


If the case has not been resolved prior to this point, the next stage is for a trial to be set. In most situations, a jury will be selected. The jury is responsible for evaluating the evidence and determining whether the prosecutor has met the burden of proof that the defendant committed each element of the crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. During the trial, the jury will listen to witnesses and review the physical evidence. At the end of trial, it delivers a verdict.

In some situations, it may be preferable to have a "bench trial" in which the judge examines the evidence and makes the decision regarding guilt or innocence.


After the trial, the judge or jury deliberates and issues a verdict. If the defendant is found not guilty, this is the end to the case. However, if he or she is found guilty, the case proceeds to the sentencing phase.

Sentence Hearing

The judge imposes a sentence, based on information included in the pre-sentence investigation report, the type of crime, circumstances surrounding the crime, the defendant's criminal history and recommendations from the prosecutor and defense lawyer.


Some criminal cases are appealed if it is believed that there was an error made that resulted in a conviction or unfair sentence.

Criminal Statute of Limitations

One potential defense that may arise in this process is the statute of limitations. For certain crimes there is a time limit by which the prosecution must bring an action against the suspect. If this time limit passes and the state files charges, the case can be dismissed based on these grounds.

Different crimes are subject to different statutes of limitations. Some crimes do not have a limit when the crime can be prosecuted. Additionally, in some situations, the statute of limitations may be suspended. Some statutes of limitations that may apply include the following:

  • For first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide - failing to give information and render aid under the Illinois Vehicle Code, concealment of homicidal death, arson, aggravated arson, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, child pornography, aggravated of child pornography, or forgery - no statute of limitations
  • For crimes involving certain specified sexual conduct and penetration crimes in which DNA evidence is entered into a DNA database - within 10 years after commission of the offense
  • For identity theft - within 5 years after the victim discovers the offense
  • For criminal sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse - within 10 years of when the offense occurred, as long as the victim reported the offense within three years of it being committed. If the victim was under 18 at the time the offense was committed, the statute of limitations is within 20 years after the victim turns 18.
  • For misconduct by a public officer or employee - within one year after discovery of the offense or within one year when the prosecuting officer became aware of the offense
  • For indecent solicitation of a child, soliciting for a juvenile prostitute, or juvenile pimping or exploitation of a child - within one year of the victim's 18th birthday and no less than three years after the commission of the offense
  • For offenses involving Section 44 of the Environment Protection Act - within 5 years after the discovery of the offense or within 5 years of the prosecuting officer becoming aware of the offense
  • For theft of real property exceeding $100,000 in value, identity theft, or aggravated identity theft - within 7 years of the last offense
  • For misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse when the victim is under 18 - within 10 years after the victim turns 18

For most felonies, the statute of limitations is three years after the offense. For misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is usually 18 months after the offense.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

In some situations, the statute of limitations is suspended. These situations include:

  • The defendant flees the state to avoid prosecution
  • A material witness is on active military duty
  • The victim is incarcerated because of the unlawful force or threats made by the defendant

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance with Your Case

If you are facing criminal charges, the potential repercussions are serious. It is important to contact a criminal defense

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