Crimes across the United States, including crimes in Chicago, Illinois, are generally categorized into three groups. Traffic citations or other petty offense are minor crimes that usually require only the payment of fines, while misdemeanors are more serious offenses for which the offender can receive up to a year in jail per conviction. Additional sanctions might include community service hours, court fees or fines, probation, and mandatory counseling. Examples of misdemeanors include drinking and driving, trespassing, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, and simple assault.

Deciding Classification of a Crime

The severity of a crime affects the way the courts labels each crime. For example, the courts generally view possession of marijuana in an amount less than 2.5 grams as personal use and accordingly classify the offense as a misdemeanor. However, possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana changes the designation of the offense to a more serious crime. Similarly, a simple assault which results in no injuries or only results in minor scrapes or bruises, generally qualifies as a misdemeanor. An aggravated assault, however, usually means serious injuries such as broken bones or disfigurement and becomes a felony.

Felonies in Chicago

The courts enhance the penalties for a felony because a felony offender now has a permanent criminal record and may spend time in prison as opposed to jail. Felony offenses range in severity from relatively minor to extremely serious. In Chicago, along with the rest of Illinois, felonies are given five designations: X, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Murder crimes are in a special category by themselves. The designation affects the potential length of time for imprisonment. No matter the designation, however, all felonies can receive a maximum fine of up to $25,000. The fine differs from the amount of restitution owed by the defendant . The judge sets restitution on a case-by-case basis.

Classifications and Examples of Felonies

The least serious felony group, class 4 felonies, such as DUI and stalking, can receive from one to three years in the state penitentiary. The next group, class 3 felonies, such as theft or aggravated battery, can be sentenced to two to five years in prison. Class 2 felonies, such as arson and possession of larger amounts of marijuana, can receive from three to seven years imprisonment. Class 1 felonies can receive a sentence of four to 15 years in the state penitentiary. Examples of these include possession of dangerous drugs, theft of more than $10,000 and sexual assault. Class X felonies, the most serious crimes, such as aggravated sexual assault, can receive prison sentences between six and 30 years.

Other Restrictions

In addition to receiving lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines, felons face other consequences. A conviction may show up on a credit report and can cause problems with obtaining loans or finding housing. Criminal convictions can keep people from voting and from serving on juries. Convicted felons may be unable to get licenses or certifications to work in fields such as education or nursing. They are also prohibited from owning firearms and often cannot serve in the military.