Many people focus on traffic offenses when they think of minor criminal violations. Typical traffic offenses include drinking and driving, speeding, driving without a valid license, texting and driving, failure to control the vehicle, and failure to yield the right of way. However, minor criminal violations, usually called misdemeanors, can result in jail time. Misdemeanors include offenses such as public intoxication, harassment, domestic violence, trespassing, shoplifting, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In Chicago and in the rest of Illinois, a misdemeanor means any crime that can result in a sentence of up to one year in the local jail. Even for misdemeanor offenses, additional consequences can be serious. Financial consequences can escalate quickly when adding the costs of restitution, fines, court costs, and time off work. Other penalties might include probation, community service, and counseling. Misdemeanors can also limit the offender’s ability to obtain certain professional certifications.
Illinois has three separate misdemeanor classifications, each with its own penalties. A class A misdemeanor, the most serious, can mean one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. A class B misdemeanor can result in six months in custody along with a $1,500 fine. A class C misdemeanor can be penalized with 30 days of jail time and a $1,500 fine.
When a driver speeds, he runs the risk of a traffic ticket and an increase in car insurance premiums. However, in cases such as drinking and driving, reckless driving, or three tickets within 12 months, the state can revoke the person’s driver’s license. Even after the payment of all associated fines and fees needed to reinstate insurance, the violator will need to fill out a SR-22 form that mandates minimum insurance coverage. Insurance companies offer this type of expensive coverage to high-risk drivers who need to carry it for three years. And, most significantly, someone who drives professionally with a commercial license could easily lose his livelihood.
While the law does categorize juvenile offenses as misdemeanors and felonies, the criminal justice system adds a third category for minors. “Status offenses” refer to acts that are only crimes when perpetrated by juveniles under the age of 18. Various types of status offenses include runaway, truancy, alcohol or tobacco consumption, and curfew violations. According to the Chicago Youth Data Project, the Chicago Police Department processed more than 32,000 school absentees and 23,275 juvenile curfew violations in 2010.