Felony Classes in Illinois
Felonies in Illinois are broken up into the following different classes:
CLASS X: Punishable for 6-36 years in prison. Extended sentence is 30-60 years.
CLASS 1: Punishable from 4-15 years. Extended sentence is 15-30 years.
CLASS 2: Punishable for 3-7 years in prison. Extended sentence is 7-14 years.
CLASS 3: Punishable from 2-5 years. Extended sentence is 5-10 years.
CLASS 4: Punishable for 1-3 years. Extended sentence is 3-5 years.
Released, Jail or Post Bail?
Every individual arrested for a felony will need to appear in Bond Court, which is usually the morning after your arrest. During Bond Court, a bond will be set based on the defendant’s criminal background and information the judge hears from both the defense attorney and the State Attorney about the crime. If the defendant does not have a private attorney during this time, the Public Defender’s office will step up on the defendant’s behalf in Bond Court. This unfortunately will mean that they will not have had the time nor opportunity to get as much information from the client or their family in order to assist in securing as low a bond as possible. In most cases the Bond will be identified as a “D” bond, which means that only ten (10%) percent of the total amount needs to be posted with the Sheriff in order to secure the prisoner’s release on Bond.
BE AWARE: Once a Bond is posted the Sheriff will automatically withhold ten (10%) percent as a fee when the Bond is returned at the completion of the case.
Meeting With Client
At the beginning of the case, if you hire the Law Office of Nir Basse, we will meet to review the evidence/discovery once it is tendered to us by the State’s Attorney. The number of times we need to meet will depend on whether we seek to negotiate a plea in the case, or try to beat the charges in trial or by Motion. The complexity of the case and the amount of evidence and witnesses will also impact the meeting frequency and necessity.
ILLINOIS FELONY PROCESS
In order for a Felony case to proceed from a charge to an actual case against the defendant, a ‘Finding of Probable Cause’ is required. This can happen in one of two ways: Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury Indictment.
In a Preliminary Hearing the State’s Attorney assigned to the courtroom will seek the testimony of one or more witnesses in the case, usually a police officer. These witnesses will testify with the intention of showing the judge that there was probable cause to charge the defendant with a crime. The defense attorney will also have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness in the Preliminary Hearing. The defendant does not need to be found ’Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ at this hearing, but by just a ‘Preponderance of the Evidence’ (more likely than not) that there was probable cause to charge the defendant with the crime. This hearing can take place on the first court date, which must take place within 30 days of being charged.
Grand Jury Indictment
In many felony cases, and for varying reasons, the State’s Attorney office can elect to have the ‘Finding of Probable Cause’ determined by a Grand Jury which is a closed proceeding that neither the defendant nor his/her lawyer may attend. A transcript of this proceeding is available later in the proceedings. In a Grand Jury proceeding the State Attorney will examine any witnesses they feel are necessary and ask the empaneled members of the Grand Jury to return a ‘Finding of Probable Cause’. If this is the case, the defendant will have to appear in Branch Court at least twice before finding out if an indictment was handed down by the Grand Jury.
After a ‘Finding of Probable Cause’ or Indictment, the case will be transferred to the Chief Judge for assignment to a Felony Courtroom. The case will begin in earnest at this point.
Note if in Cook County: Both Chief Judge and Felony Courtroom will be on 26th and California. Felony Courtroom may also be sent to other Districts.
Steps of the Felony Process
The first step is for the State’s Attorney’s office to share all the evidence they have in the case (this is called Discovery) and allow the defense time to review and consider it. It can often take multiple court appearances for the Evidence to be collected by the State’s attorney and tendered to the defense. At whatever point the Discovery period is complete, a decision will need to be made on how to proceed. The following questions are only answered in full review of the nature of the charges, the sentencing guidelines/requirements, the offer made by the state, the criminal history of the defendant, legal costs, the evidence and the strength of potential witnesses for and against the defendant:
- Are we looking to make a deal/plea?
- Is there a Motion we can bring that might exclude some evidence or question the propriety of the arrest?
- Do we wish to proceed to trial as we question the strength of the State’s case against you?
- This decision is made only after full consultation with your attorney providing you counsel to make a decision you are comfortable with.
If a Plea is going to be sought, either the defense attorney and the State Attorney can come to an agreement mutually, or more often, they can seek to engage the judge in a 402 Conference, whereby the judge, the defense attorney and the State Attorney meet off the record in the judge’s chamber to discuss the defendant and the case in the hope the judge can recommend a sentence/resolution satisfactory to both parties. If an agreement is reached, the defendant will enter a Plea of Guilty and be sentenced to the agreed upon terms and conditions.
If a Motion is brought, the defense attorney will submit a written motion/argument and the State Attorney will reply in writing as well. Depending on the nature of the Motion, a hearing will be held. This hearing will likely include the examination of witnesses and arguments before the judge. At the end of hearing all the evidence and arguments, the judge will make a decision. If the determination is in the defendant’s favor it could mean a dismissal of charges or a change in the evidence permitted to be presented in such a fashion as to turn to case in your favor.
If proceeding to trial, the defendant will have already determined with their lawyer whether a Bench Trial (the Judge is the Trier of Fact) or a Jury Trial (12 members of the community as the Triers of Fact) is the appropriate choice. The defendant needs to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the Judge or each and every juror to be convicted. If convicted the defendant will be sentenced by the judge based on information he will collect and/or hear from the State, the defense attorney, pre-trial services and possibly a Pre-Sentencing Investigation the judge can request. If found guilty, an appeal can/must be filed in writing within 30 days of sentencing with the assistance of an attorney. The appeal must be based on grounds; and any issues not raised in the appeal are lost as an argument moving forward.
SENTENCING FOR A FELONY OFFENSE
A prior criminal background is significant for sentencing a defendant. It is something the State’s Attorney will consider before extending an initial offer in the matter. In fact, it can actually create statutory minimum sentencing requirements if the defendant is a previously convicted felon or they have been convicted of a certain crime a certain amount of times. The judge will also consider a defendant’s criminal history at both the time of the 402 Conference (where the Judge makes an offer for a plea bargain) or post-conviction when he is determining your sentence.
First and foremost; first time offenders, young people and contributing members of society are looked at in a different light than habitual criminals. Variables such as employment, family status, charitable work, volunteer work, and other good deeds can go a long way in convincing a court not to impose a harsh sentence. Also, doing productive and positive things between the time of your arrest and sentencing (often over a years time) can help at the time of sentencing. There are also some statutory remedies available for First Time Offenders. These remedies are only available in certain crimes, but do fall under the category of Deferred Prosecutions and will lead to possible dismissal of charges upon completion and make expungement and no criminal record an option
Serving A Sentence
At current conditions most inmates serve approximately fifty percent (50%) of their sentence, unless they are convicted of a crime that requires a minimum of eighty-five percent (85%) to be served. This is of course based on behavior while in custody. In addition, most inmates can earn additional “Good Time” for work, study, and/or other activities meant to better the individual available in the prison.
Expungement is generally only permitted in non-conviction cases. Expungement is a complicated and time-consuming process. An attorney is highly recommended because a single omission or mistake could cause a denial or cause you to start all over.