While it is stressful to be arrest for any criminal offense in Illinois, the risk to your liberty and future is magnified when you are charged with a felony. While a criminal offense can either be a felony or misdemeanor, felonies are more serious crimes that carry harsher sentences and more significant long-term consequences. Under Illinois law, felony offenses generally are crimes that carry a potential punishment that includes incarceration that exceeds a year in jail and involves stiffer fines than misdemeanor offenses. Serious violent felonies can result in longer terms in state prison and mandatory minimum sentences.The Harsh Consequences of a Cook County Felony Conviction
Felony offenses in Illinois are classified based on a multi-tiered system according to the severity of the offenseand any felony conviction can result in serious criminal penalties and lingering long-term effects on your future. Although the precise sentence imposed for a felony conviction will depend on such factors as criminal history; specific crime charged; aggravating facts that justify penalty enhancements; underlying circumstances of the crime; harm inflicted like injury, death or property loss; and other relevant considerations, a felony may result in some or all of the following:
- Incarceration in state prison up to life imprisonment
- Formal probation
- Expensive fines
- Sex offender registration
- Loss of driving privileges
- Deprivation of Constitutional rights to vote, jury service, gun ownership
- Permanent felony record
- Stiffer penalties for subsequent convictions
- Limitations on where you can live and travel
- Restraining orders that impact access to your family
While this is hardly a comprehensive list of all the potential penalties that may flow from a Chicago felony conviction, there are also other informal consequences when you are convicted of a felony in Illinois that can significantly impede your future. A felony record of conviction can seriously affect many aspects of your future including:
- Job and career options
- Personal relationships because of sex offender registration
- Educational opportunities because of academic punishment or ineligibility for financial aid
- Immigration status including disqualification for citizenship, permanent residency or even deportation
The bottom line is that when you are arrested and charged with a felony in Chicago or anywhere throughout Cook County your future may be derailed unless you take immediate action. The first order of business is to refuse to speak to the police until you have an experienced Chicago felony defense attorney by your side. Law enforcement officers often consider the time prior to an accused asserting their right to an attorney as the most important stage of an investigation because many criminal defendants make incriminating disclosures, provide inconsistent statements or even offer full confessions.
The United States Constitution imposes an obligation on the government to prove your guilt based on an exacting burden of proof – the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. When you are arrested, you have no legal obligation to assist the police in gathering evidence, and your Cook County felony criminal attorney will provide legal advice and guidance so that you avoid inadvertently contributing to your own conviction.
Chicago criminal defense lawyer David L. Freidberg has successfully defended many individuals charged with all levels of felony offenses in Illinois from the lowest level Class 4 felonies to Class X felonies. Mr. Freidberg uses his 20 years of legal experience, which includes scrutinizing law enforcement reports for errors, inconsistencies or misconduct; analyzing police interrogation, search and evidence gathering procedures; evaluating the reliability and veracity of evidence and witnesses; and tenaciously challenging the forensic evidence and testimony offered by the prosecution. While Mr. Freidberg’s goal is to obtain a dismissal of charges prior to trial or acquittal at trial, whenever this option is feasible, he also understands the value of obtaining a reduction in the charge to a misdemeanor to avoid the harsh impact of a felony conviction in a Chicago courtroom.Felony Sentencing Classification under Illinois Law
The system of punishment for felonies in Illinois is based on a tiered hierarchy of penalties based on the seriousness and/or violent nature of a charged criminal offense. While the penalties listed below do not include specific consequences like mandatory sex offender registration for sex offenses or required anger management classes for domestic violence charges, these are the standard periods of incarceration associated with each class of felony. These penalties increase substantially if there are aggravating factors like use of a firearm or past felony convictions.
- Class 4 Felonies: 1 to 3 years in an Illinois penitentiary
- Class 3 Felonies: 2 to 5 years in an Illinois penitentiary
- Class 2 Felonies: 3 to 7 years in Illinois state prison
- Class 1 Felonies: 4 to 15 years of imprisonment
- Class X Felonies: 6 to 30 years in prison
The initial phase in a felony case in Chicago or elsewhere throughout Cook County or the surrounding areas of Illinois is the arrest. However, an investigation typically precedes an arrest and may present a multitude of defense opportunities. Evidence may be obtained during an arbitrary stop that cannot be justified by sufficient articulable facts that the person arrested was engaged in criminal activity. In other cases, the police may conduct a warrantless search though the requirements of a warrant exception are not satisfied. An officer also may exceed the scope of a warrant in conducting a search or even misrepresent the facts to obtain a warrant. The point is that the investigation that occurs prior to an arrest and immediately following an arrest may provide legal justifications to exclude critical evidence.Arraignment
The arraignment will occur shortly after an arrest and involves the charges being formally read to the criminal defendant. Generally, this is when a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest will be entered to the filed criminal charges. In some cases, Mr. Freidberg may even advise a client to invoke the right to a mute plea. The judge will enter a not guilty plea on a defendant’s behalf in this situation so that the accused’s right to challenge the earlier proceedings are preserved.Criminal Trial
Unless you enter a guilty plea at the time of arraignment, Illinois law generally requires that you have a trial within 120 to 160 days from the time of your formal arrest. While plea negotiations may continue up to and even during the trial, the jury will enter a verdict if no plea agreement is reached. If you are convicted, you will be brought back to court for a subsequent hearing regarding sentencing. A challenge to your conviction must be filed within thirty days so your appeal request must be prompt to avoid an unintended waiver of your right to appeal.
Experienced and dedicated Illinois felony criminal defense attorney David L. Freidberg recognizes the potentially devastating impact of a felony conviction on the personal relationships, careers and education of his clients so he works diligently to obtain the best possible outcome for his clients. Whether he is challenging the admissibility of evidence, exposing police misconduct and Constitutional violations or questioning the honesty of witnesses, Mr. Freidberg is committed to protecting the reputation, freedom and lives of his clients. We offer an absolutely confidential consultation so that we can explain your rights and discuss your options. We invite you to contact us at 312-560-7100 or email us to learn how we can help.