Being arrested and charged with committing a crime can be an unnerving and anxiety-ridden event for most Illinois residents. The penalties associated with a criminal conviction can range from a fine to imprisonment. The consequences of a conviction can be more long-term than the sentence imposed by a judge. If an individual is convicted of a misdemeanor charge or a felony in Illinois, the criminal record associated with the conviction could affect the person's ability to obtain employment.
Criminal charges are categorized as infractions, misdemeanors or felonies. Infractions are minor violations of the law such as traffic offenses. Fines are the most common penalties associated with a plea of guilty or a conviction after trial for committing an infraction.
Criminal conduct that is more serious than an infraction is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor is a criminal charge punishable by up to a year in jail. Fines may also be imposed by a court either in place of or in conjunction with a jail sentence. Alternatives to a jail sentence could be probation and community service. Common misdemeanor offenses are shoplifting and certain other theft crimes.
The most serious criminal charges are felonies. Murder, kidnapping and burglary are examples of activities that society deems to be so serious as to warrant the most severe penalties. The primary distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor charge is the severity of the punishment judges are authorized to impose upon conviction. Felony sentences can include confinement to state prison for more than one year. If the law calls for imposing a fine, the amount of the penalty is usually substantially greater than it would be for a misdemeanor charge.
Felonies and misdemeanors are serious violations of the law. An individual who has been charged with these types of crimes may want to obtain the immediate assistance of an attorney so that an appropriate defense strategy can be constructed.