A felony conviction is the most serious type of criminal conviction under Illinois law. Besides harsh sentencing, including lengthy prison sentences, huge fines, and probation periods, convicted felons will receive a permanent criminal record.
With a felony record, convicted felons face serious restrictions in their day-to-day life, which can make it difficult to move on from their criminal history. The criminal justice system puts up huge barriers for convicted felons to get back into employment, find housing, get educated, and take part fully in society.
Although there are many restrictions for convicted felons in Illinois, it is possible to move on from a criminal conviction and begin a new chapter in your life. The best way to secure and protect your future is by hiring a criminal defense lawyer that cares about you and your life. At Hirsch Law Group, we dedicate our time to fighting against the injustices of the criminal legal system.
The experienced criminal defense lawyers at our firm are ready to offer you the help you need with your criminal case, whether it is record sealing, getting your criminal sentence reduced, fighting on your behalf in Illinois courts, or providing you with resources after you leave prison.
Our law firm offers free consultations for you to come in and speak about any issues you have with one of our lawyers. Our priority is protecting your legal rights at all times and securing your future.
Call us today at 815-880-1134 to schedule a free consultation.
Illinois Felony Crimes
In Illinois, and throughout the United States, criminal offenses are divided into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanor charges are less serious than felony charges and carry with them more lenient penalties. Although both misdemeanors and felonies result in a permanent criminal record, it is a lot more difficult to get a felony expunged, and is impossible in most cases.
Illinois felonies are divided into different classes, depending on the severity of the crime. All felony classes contain sentencing guidelines under the law that are to be used by Judges when imposing sentences on convicted felons.
When there are aggravating factors involved, the sentence can be increased to reflect the severity. If your lawyer puts up a strong defense on your behalf, you may get your sentence reduced. However, there are mandatory minimum sentences for almost all felony convictions.
Because felonies in Illinois are criminal charges for more serious crimes, the penalties are typically more severe. There is a statute of limitations to begin criminal proceedings for felony charges in Illinois, which is typically three years. However, with more serious felony crimes such as murder or sex offenses, there is no time limit for prosecution.
Criminal Penalties For a Felony Conviction
The criminal penalties imposed for felony offenses depend on several factors. First, the class of felony you are charged with will offer sentencing guidelines to the Judge. Next, if there were any aggravating factors, such as a felony record for the same crime, the commission of another felony, a hate crime, or committing a crime on a juvenile, the sentence may be increased.
The judge will also base the prison sentence on the severity of the crime and if it involved drugs, the amount and type of drug found in your possession.
Class X Felonies
Class X felonies are the most serious type of felony convictions that you can receive in Illinois. Some crimes that amount to a Class X felony include first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated arson, armed robbery, aggravated battery of a child, and drug trafficking in high quantities of a controlled substance.
The penalties for Class X felonies in Illinois can vary depending on whether there were any aggravating factors. However, if convicted, you could face:
- 3 to 30 years in prison for standard Class X felonies.
- 30 to 60 years in prison for an extended term.
- Fines of up to $25,000.
Class 1 Felonies
A Class 1 felony offense could include aggravated robbery, second-degree murder, residential burglary, sexual assault, firearms trafficking, aggravated possession of a firearm, possession of a deadly substance, or cannabis trafficking. The penalties for a Class 1 felony conviction include:
- 4 to 15 years in prison for a standard Class 1 felony conviction.
- 15 to 30 years in prison for an extended term.
- Fines of up to $25,000.
Class 2 Felonies
Class 2 felony charges are the third most serious felony crimes in Illinois. A Class 2 felony can include arson, burglary, trafficking of a controlled substance, kidnapping, robbery, possession of a stolen firearm, aggravated sex offenses, and theft of over $500. The penalties you may receive for a Class 2 felony conviction include:
- 3 to 7 years in prison.
- 7 to 14 years in prison for an extended term.
- Fines of up to $25,000.
Class 3 Felonies
Examples of a Class 3 felony in Illinois include aggravated battery, reckless homicide, forgery, involuntary manslaughter, theft of $500 and under, and some drug offense charges. A criminal conviction for a Class 3 felony could result in:
- 2 to 5 years in prison.
- 5 to 10 years in prison for an extended term.
- Fines of up to $25,000.
Class 4 Felonies
Class 4 felonies are the least serious felony criminal offense that you can be convicted of. However, convicted felons will still receive a permanent criminal record and prison sentences. Some crimes that can cause a Class 4 felony include felony DUI, stalking, criminal sexual abuse, unauthorized prescription forms, and some drug possession charges.
Class 4 felony prison sentences include:
- 1-3 years in prison for a standard Class 4 felony.
- 3-7 years in prison for an extended term.
- Fines of up to $25,000.
Like all felony charges in Illinois, Class 4 felonies have a mandatory minimum prison sentence. This means that if you are convicted of a felony crime, Illinois law requires that you spend time in prison.
What Restrictions Do Felons Have in Illinois?
Felony convictions result in many collateral consequences, that are separate from your criminal penalties. With a criminal history of a felony conviction, you will have many difficulties accessing employment and education, applying for loans, accessing housing, and getting financial help from the government.
Some collateral consequences of a felony conviction include:
Restriction of Constitutional Rights
Unlike misdemeanor convictions, a felony conviction automatically results in some constitutional rights being restricted. In Illinois, this includes the right to own and bear arms, the right to vote in elections, the right to serve as a juror, the right to certain jobs, the right to travel internationally (sometimes), and certain parental rights.
As a convicted felon, you lose access to certain federal assistance programs, such as welfare programs, Section 8 housing assistance, and Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF). In addition, your ability to qualify for student loans will be affected by a felony conviction.
With student loans, you will have to wait a certain period before you can apply for federal assistance. For example, if you were convicted of criminal charges involving drug possession, you will have to wait one year before you can apply for a student loan.
Consequences of a Criminal Record in Illinois
A large amount of the collateral consequences coming from a felony conviction stem from the permanent criminal record that results. After you have completed your prison sentence and served time for the alleged crime, you leave prison with a criminal history that hangs around for the rest of your life.
This criminal record is accessible to any institution that wants to conduct a background check on you, and you may face difficulties in the following areas:
Most employers in Illinois conduct background checks on potential employees. Although Congress and lawmakers have introduced certain measures to make employment more accessible to convicted felons, there are certain types of jobs that simply do not accept those with a felony conviction. Convicted felons cannot work in healthcare, public office, with children, law enforcement, and other related fields.
Getting accepted to education institutes can be a lot more difficult with a criminal record. Although convicted felons are not explicitly prevented from accessing universities, your application is less likely to be accepted if you have a criminal history. If you are currently enrolled at a university, you risk being suspended or expelled if convicted of a felony.
Unfortunately, The Fair Housing Act does not protect convicted felons from discrimination when it comes to leasing or renting a house. Landlords in Illinois are less likely to rent or lease property to those with a criminal conviction, and some landlords do not allow convicted felons on their property.
In addition, banks and financial institutions rarely hand out loans or mortgages to those with a felony conviction, making it difficult to buy a property. Convicted felons will also be rejected from public housing and risk being kicked out of the housing that they currently live in following felony convictions.
Can I Get My Criminal Record Expunged in Illinois?
One method of clearing your criminal record in Illinois and starting with a clean slate is through record expungement. Expungement is the process of clearing your record so that previous convictions no longer appear on searches. Unfortunately, however, felony convictions cannot be completely expunged from your criminal record in Illinois, unless your case meets any of the following requirements:
- Case acquittal or finding of not guilty.
- No probable cause finding.
- Case struck out by a Judge.
- Charges or cases dismissed.
If you were convicted of a felony in Illinois, you will have to complete a lengthy probation period to get your conviction expunged, and this only applies to some drug possession and theft charges. Most felony convictions are ineligible for expungement.
You may, however, qualify for record sealing, which is similar to expungement but does not get rid of the record completely. A sealed record will be accessible by request to law enforcement officers. Felony convictions that can be sealed after a certain amount of time include:
- Possession of cannabis.
- Felony theft.
- Deceptive practice.
- Possession of burglary tools.
Record sealing can be an effective method for overcoming some restrictions placed on convicted felons. Unfortunately, there are still huge limitations on who can get their records sealed and expunged, which makes it even more difficult for those convicted of a felony to move on with their lives.
Resources For Ex-Felons in Illinois
The criminal justice system makes it extremely difficult for those convicted of a felony in Illinois to move on with their lives after serving their sentences. When an individual leaves prison, they face major restrictions and barriers imposed upon them through their criminal record. To top it off, the federal government does not offer much assistance to ex-felons reintegrating back into society.
Luckily, however, there are a lot of resources for ex-felons in Illinois, funded by local government resources and independent organizations. These organizations help convicted felons find employment, apply for cash assistance, get job training, and apply to education programs. Some examples of these resources include:
Organizations such as Cara Chicago, Westside Health Authority, and The North Lawndale Employment Network offer different employment services to convicted felons, including job readiness training, help with resume writing, employment contracts, and interview assistance.
Most people who leave prison have little or no money to support themselves until they get a job. There are certain services in Chicago that provide cash assistance to ex-felons to help them get back on their feet with no strings attached. These services include The Chicago Future Fund, Equity, and Transformation (EAT) and The Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot.
How Do Felony Convictions affect Parental or Custody Rights in Illinois?
In Illinois, if a defendant pleads guilty to a felony, it can significantly impact parental or custody rights. The court considers the best interest of the child, and a criminal background with felonies can be a factor. For instance, if the felony involves violence or harm to a child, it can lead to loss of custody or visitation rights. A conditional discharge or a sentence to county jail doesn’t automatically disqualify a parent, but forcible felonies, especially, might affect a judge’s decision. The focus remains on child safety and welfare, and every case is evaluated individually.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help!
The only way to prevent the severe restrictions of a felony conviction is by hiring strong legal representation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help prevent a felony conviction by aggressively defending your case. From the get-go, they will advise you on your legal rights, investigate your case, collect evidence to support your case, and build a strong defense on your behalf.
They will then use their experience and skills to negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charges dropped or reduced to a misdemeanor. An experienced Illinois attorney will do all communication on your behalf so that you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing to a prosecutor or law enforcement officer. This way, you can focus on getting your life back on track while awaiting the results of your case.
Criminal Defense Attorneys at Hirsch Law Group
The criminal defense attorneys at Hirsch Law Group understand the severity of a felony conviction, and we want to do everything in our power to help prevent a conviction. Our law offices have been helping citizens of Oklahoma fight against criminal cases for over 15 years, and we know what it takes to fight against a felony charge successfully.
Hirsch Law Group has won multiple awards for its dedication to protecting the rights of the accused. Our managing attorney, Gordon H. Hirsch, was recognized by Enterprise.com as one of the Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Chicago in 2022 and has an AVVO rating of 10.0.
We have been on both sides of the fence and we have seen what happens in felony criminal cases. Our lawyers use their experience as former prosecutors to come up with a unique defense strategy for your case and predict arguments that a prosecutor may use.
Besides litigating cases, negotiating with prosecutors, and fighting aggressively to prevent a conviction, Hirsch Law Group offers mitigation packets to all clients. Mitigation packets are bundles of information that we send to a prosecutor to give them a better image of who you are as a person.
This packet includes information about your employment and education, references from employers, friends, and family, and any other supporting information about you. Prosecutors deal with hundreds of cases each week and rarely take the time to get to know more about the accused person. All they see is that you are accused of a crime and their job is to prosecute you.
By getting more information about you and seeing that you have little or no criminal record, they are more likely to negotiate a fairer sentence or reduce your charges to a misdemeanor. As former prosecutors, our attorneys have seen firsthand the benefit of these packets, which is why we believe they are vital to all criminal defense cases.
Contact Hirsch Law Group Today!
The consequences of a felony in Illinois are severe. If convicted of a felony, you will face a long prison sentence, have to pay huge fines, a lengthy probation period, and have a permanent record detailing your criminal history. Once you leave prison, you are faced with huge obstacles and restrictions that make reintegrating back into society extremely difficult.
Law officers, prosecutors, and Illinois courts do not care about what happens to you after you leave prison. Their priority is ensuring that your case moves through the system and that you serve your sentence. The ownership is on you to ensure that your own legal rights are protected when facing felony charges in Illinois. The best way to do this is by hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.
At Hirsch Law Group, we have a team of former prosecutors that now work as aggressive criminal defense attorneys. Our primary focus is on protecting your best interest and ensuring that you get a positive outcome for your case. Whether it is negotiation, litigation, or post-conviction help, our team of lawyers is ready to assist you in any way we can.
When dealing with felony charges, you need to have a lawyer that cares about your future and has the requisite experience to win your case. Hirsch Law Group has what it takes to get a positive outcome in your case.
Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation at 815-880-1134.