From Fines to Jail Time: Explaining Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

When you hear “misdemeanor” and “felony,” you probably think of similar crimes. And while that’s true to some extent, there are also some significant differences between the two regarding their penalties and consequences. If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s essential to understand whether they’re misdemeanor or felony charges—as this can make a big difference in your case and your life.

Misdemeanor Definition & Examples

When most people think of criminal charges, they think of felonies. These are the most severe types of crimes, and they can result in lengthy prison sentences. However, there are also misdemeanors, which are less serious crimes. 

In Illinois, a crime is a misdemeanor if punishable by less than a year of jail time. There are three classes of misdemeanors: 

Class A

Theft under $500, minor battery, etc.

  • Most severe 
  • Less than one year in jail
  • Up to two years probation 
  • A fine of $75 – $2,500

Class B 

Cyberbullying, dumping trash, trespassing, etc. 

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Up to two years probation 
  • A fine of $75 – $1,500

Class C

Disorderly conduct, inspiring fear of assault, etc. 

  • Least severe 
  • Up to 30 days in jail 
  • A fine of $75 – $1,500

Felony Definition & Examples

Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, and a crime is considered a felony when there is more than one year of jail time. Crimes such as murder, arson, grand theft, kidnapping, aggravated assault, burglary, and distributing drugs are considered felonies. 

There are several different categories and levels of severity, but here are the main levels of severity for felonies in Illinois:

First-Degree Murder 

This is its own class of felony, with a minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. 

Class X Felony 

With a prison sentence of 6-30 years, Class X felonies include things like an armed home invasion and firing a gun along with battery. 

Class 1-4 Felonies 

While less than First-Degree Murder and Class X Felonies, Class Felonies range in severity from sexual assault to identity theft. A Class 1 Felony (most severe) will receive 4-15 years in prison, and a Class 4 Felony (least severe) will receive 1-3 years imprisonment. 

In addition to jail or prison time, judges sometimes order the accused to pay hefty fines, known as restitution, to their victims. 

Have You Been Charged with A Misdemeanor or Felony? Contact An Attorney.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and help you build a defense. Tess, Crull & Arnquist has nearly 6o years of experience fighting for those accused of a crime. We will fight for your rights and reputation.