An Illinois misdemeanor is a criminal charge that is less serious than a felony. Misdemeanors carry up to 364 days of jail time but are also punishable by probation, community service and fines. Examples of misdemeanors in Illinois include theft (of value under $300), certain sex crimes that do not involve a child such as prostitution, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
Oftentimes a crime is a misdemeanor for a first offense but becomes a felony the second time it is committed. For example, the first time you are convicted of solicitation of a prostitute, it will be a misdemeanor. However, if you do it again and are arrested again for the same thing, it could result in a felony charge.
There are three classes of misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious, with sentences of up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $2500, and include domestic battery, retail theft and public indecency. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1500. Common Class B misdemeanors include possession of Cannabis (over 2.5 grams but not over 10 grams), telephone harassment and some trespassing charges. Class C misdemeanors are the least serious, with sentences of up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $1500, and include disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana of not more than 2.5 grams.
Many misdemeanors can be expunged or sealed, but there is a waiting period between 18 months and five years for most offenses. This means that as long as you do not get convicted of another crime from the time you are no longer supervised by the court, you may be eligible for sealing or expungement, meaning your record of the conviction will not be available to be viewed by future employers or the public. If you have more than one misdemeanor felony conviction, you will not be able to remove any from your record without a pardon from the Governor.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your goal should be court supervision. Court supervision means your record will eventually indicate “not guilty” as long as you complete the supervision period without getting convicted of another crime. The court supervision period will not last longer than two years. This is not the same as probation where there is much closer monitoring of the defendant and the criminal conviction remains on his or her record.
In big cities like Chicago, Wheaton, Waukegan, Joliet, etc., judges and prosecutors have heavy workloads. They are handling so many cases at once that they are often willing to agree to deals or dismiss cases altogether. That is why do not want to "stand out" to them. If you do, you may be highlighting yourself as a case that they should pursue. By dressing inappropriately, by saying anything that is not a response to a question from the judge, by hiring a lawyer that does not do a lot of work at that court, by not being represented at all – all of these things are potential red flags to a prosecutor and judge.
The bottom line is that with most misdemeanors, especially on first offenses, an attorney who knows what they are doing (e.g. focuses their practice on criminal defense) and does a lot of work at the courthouse where the case will be heard can usually get your case dismissed. Hiring the right attorney is often the difference between a good and bad result. Beware of attorneys that solicit you as a client by mailing you an advertisement. These attorneys pull police reports and flood arrest victims with mail. Many of them just help you plead guilty instead of truly defending you. You should never just plead guilty without exploring all of your options first. This is true even if you are guilty.
People come to us to find the right lawyer for their situation. If you would like our help in finding an experienced criminal defense attorney that does a lot of work in the court where you are being charged, please contact us. We can’t guarantee a result, but promise that we wouldn’t recommend an attorney to you if we wouldn’t be willing to hire that same lawyer ourselves. All calls and e-mails are confidential.