The courts divide crimes into different categories depending on the severity of each crime. The Chicago public often views drug crimes as the least serious because these charges do not usually result from victims’ injuries or deaths. Most people view property crimes as more dangerous. Crimes such as auto theft and property damage have victims although people often don’t suffer from physical injuries. In contrast, a violent offense means that the defendant committed a crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, which generally involved physical harm to a victim. Violent crimes may result in personal injury or death, or involve threats of physical injury or death. The crime might be sexual or domestic in nature. Juveniles and adults alike can commit violent crimes and become involved with the criminal justice system.
Violent offenses can be further subdivided into several categories: verbal, domestic, sexual, and other. However, these groupings often overlap. Verbal crimes include threats, intimidation, and harassment. Domestic offenses usually mean crimes committed against a partner or a former partner, and include assault, endangerment, battery, rape, physical restraint, violation of an order of protection, or stalking. Sexual crimes include rape, sexual assault, incest, sexual conduct with a minor, and date rape. Other types of violent crimes include hit-and-run accidents, aggravated assault, murder, manslaughter, and robbery.
According to the FBI, 432 murders occurred in the city of Chicago during 2011. During the same time period, the city reported 12,408 aggravated assaults. Robberies hovered close to 14,000 during that year, which saw robbery numbers slightly down from 2010. During 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the city recorded 1,439 rapes per 100,000 residents. In July 2011, 2,582 registered sex offenders resided in the city. According to published statistics, the city reported a violent crime rate in 2009 of more than twice the national average.
The sentencing of a juvenile who commits a violent crime depends on the severity of the crime and the age of the juvenile. The courts transfer some minors to adult court, especially if the crime is extremely violent or if the juvenile is close to the age of 18. In other cases, minors remain in the juvenile system and may receive lesser sentences than they would if the state had charged them as adults.
Rights for Victims
Certain rights protect victims of violent offenses through the court process in Chicago. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office prioritizes treating victims with dignity and respect. A victim has the right to many types of information about the case, such as a photograph of the convict, sentencing information, changes in the case status, and notification of the convict’s parole. Victims generally also have a right to submit a written statement to the court and a right to speak at sentencing proceedings. Court personnel often act as advocates for victims who might be confused by the court process.