Criminal Law

Depending on the type of crime committed, a person who commits a crime may face serious penalties and consequences. In the city of Chicago, along with the rest of Illinois, adult crimes are divided into three separate categories – traffic offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Classification of Crimes

Traffic offenses, sometimes called infractions, are relatively minor crimes that usually result in fines. Misdemeanor penalties can include fines, community service, counseling, probation, or time in jail of up to one year. A felony can result in any or all of these same penalties, but the offender can receive a prison sentence for a term longer than a year.

Juvenile courts handle offenses that involve minors younger than 18 years of age. Some of these offenses include status offenses, which are crimes that only apply to juveniles. Status offenses cover curfew violations, alcohol consumption, truancy and runaway situations. However, the state classifies the more serious juvenile crimes as misdemeanors and felonies.


Misdemeanors are divided into three categories of Class A, Class B, and Class C. The most serious type of misdemeanor, Class A, can result in up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Class A examples include battery, possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana, or drinking and driving. Class B misdemeanors can result in sentences of up to six months in jail with a fine of up to $1,500. Examples include harassment or possession of marijuana between 1.5 and 10 grams. A class C misdemeanor penalty can include a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,500. Class C examples include assault or possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana.


Chicago criminal law divides felonies into five separate classes and puts murder in a distinct class by itself. All felonies carry a maximum fine amount of up to $25,000 no matter the severity of the crime. Class X felonies, the most serious class of felonies, can receive between six and 30 years in prison. Aggravated sexual assault is an example of a class X felony. A class 1 felony carries a penalty of between four and 15 years in prison. Examples of class 1 felonies include possession of opiates or sexual assault. A class 2 felony, such as arson, carries a sentence of between three and seven years in prison. A class 3 felony, such as aggravated battery, can be imprisoned between two and five years. Lastly, Chicago criminals can receive prison sentences of one to three years for committing a class 4 felony such as stalking or aggravated assault.


Chicago crime statistics rank as some of the highest nationally. Reportedly, almost 2,600 registered sex offenders resided in Chicago as of July 2011. The city reports a crime index of almost twice the national average, although that number has steadily decreased since 1999. In 2010, property crimes including robberies, thefts, auto thefts, burglaries and arson stood at the highest levels of all crimes. Also in 2010, the city recorded 432 murders per every 100,000 residents. In 2009, individuals reported just over 1,400 rapes per every 100,000 people. Rape statistics were not available for 2010.