Frequently Asked Questions* - Criminal Law

Criminal Law

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Illinois, and it is important to understand your rights and options leading up to your first court appearance. If convicted for DUI, your license will be taken away (revoked) for a set period of time, which varies based on different factors. Full driving privileges may be reinstated only after the terms of the conviction are successfully completed. The terms may include payment of a fine and court costs, completion of counseling, public service, jail time and the inability to drive during the period of revocation. It may then be necessary to schedule a hearing before the Secretary of State.

If you either failed or refused to take a breathalyzer test during the traffic stop, you will receive a notice that your license will automatically be suspended (known as a “statutory summary suspension”). This suspension occurs 46 days after the day you receive a ticket. It is important to seek legal advice to determine your rights and options before this suspension occurs. Legal grounds may exist to rescind the statutory summary suspension.

If you are uncertain whether an attorney can help with your particular situation, contact us for a free consultation.

In Illinois, criminal offenses are divided into two basic categories, felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies carry a possible sentence of at least one year in jail and/or a fine, while misdemeanors (which are less serious but by no means "slap on the wrist" offenses) carry possible jail sentences of up to one year and possible fines as well.

While misdemeanor offenses may seem minor in comparison, a person can be charged with a felony for repeat misdemeanor offenses. In addition to those listed here, other sentences are available for misdemeanors, including court supervision, conditional discharge (non-reporting probation), and probation.

Drug crimes may be categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. The quantity of a controlled substance, type of controlled substance, intent to deliver, location of the crime, ages of the parties and past history are some of the factors that determine the severity of the crime.

Illinois has five classes of felonies that carry different penalties. First degree murder is also a felony offense and carries unique penalties. All felonies may also be punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and the possibility of an extended prison term, depending on the circumstances of the offense(s).

Types of Felony Illinois State Prison Term
Class X Felony 6-30 years
Class 1 Felony 4-15 years
Class 2 Felony 3-7 years
Class 3 Felony 2-5 years
Class 4 Felony 1-3 years
Class A Misdemeanor Up to 1 year and/or $2,500
Class B Misdemeanor Up to 180 days and/or $1,500
Class C Misdemeanor Up to 30 days and/or $1,500

This depends upon a number of factors, including the reason you were ticketed, whether you are required to appear in court, and in some cases, your personal preference.

If you are not required to appear in court (your ticket will state whether or not you must appear), you have the option of simply paying the fine listed on the ticket by mail. While this seems like a quick and easy solution, you should know that paying the fine may result in a conviction, which remains on your driving record for a set period of time. Depending upon the number of convictions you receive within a given time period, this can result in higher insurance rates and even a license suspension.

In order to avoid a conviction, you can request court supervision. Supervision can result in a fine and court costs, community service, and/or attendance of traffic school. If the period of supervision is satisfactorily completed, the supervision ends without a conviction on your driving record.

If you are required to appear in court, be sure to arrive at least fifteen minutes early and to dress appropriately (see our General FAQs for tips on what to bring and wear to court). Traffic cases that go to trial are often conducted as bench trials, meaning the judge (instead of a jury) listens to the evidence and decides the case based on the facts presented.

Every case is unique and the law can be applied in any number of ways to each situation. If you are uncertain whether an attorney can help resolve your particular situation, contact us for a free consultation.

We strongly recommend that you appear for all court dates. Your appearance may be mandatory. In situations where you received prior permission from a judge excusing your appearance, you do not have to appear. However, if not otherwise excused, you must appear at every court date or risk having a warrant for your arrest based on your failure to appear. You also risk having any bond that you may have posted be forfeited to the court.

A bench trial means a judge (instead of a jury) considers the evidence and decides the case based on the facts presented. Bench trial procedures are similar to those in jury trials: witnesses are called to testify under oath about what happened, and the judge decides the verdict after hearing the testimony of the witnesses and considering all of the evidence presented.

Yes if on a public roadway in a school or construction zone. An Illinois law (IL House Bill 72) enacted in January 2010 prohibits the use of cell phones in construction and school speed zones. So if your child's school pickup area is in a school speed zone, wait to use your cell phone until you have left that zone. Exceptions to this law include calls made during emergencies (to summon police, fire, or ambulance services) and in voice-activated mode (i.e., hands-free). Also keep in mind that texting while driving is illegal statewide (and in many other jurisdictions), and talking on a hand-held cell phone is illegal in the City of Chicago.

This depends upon the type of ordinance violation you received and in which municipality (city, town, village, etc.). Each municipality has its own set of ordinances that citizens and visitors are often unaware of but are still required to follow. Ordinance violations differ from a crime because they are issued by a municipality rather than the state. Examples of common ordinance violations include: disposal of abandoned cars or other waste on private property, noise disturbances (music, barking dogs), burning leaves without a permit, disorderly conduct, and trespassing.

*DISCLAIMER: The questions and answers presented on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship.