A felony conviction is a serious matter everywhere in the United States, but in Illinois our lawmakers take felonies particularly seriously. Classified as Class X, 1, 2, 3, or 4 offenses, felonies here are punishable by state prison sentences that can last decades, fines up to $25,000, and restitution that has to be paid to victims.
And the penalties don’t stop after you have served your time and are allowed back into the real world. A felony conviction in Illinois can negatively impact the rest of your life in a number of ways.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions out there regarding what a felony conviction allows and restricts a person from doing. Below we will outline all of the restrictions felons face, the punishments for repeat offenders, and how a strong defense can help you avoid the label of “felon” altogether.
Prison Terms for Felony Convictions
Illinois gives serious consequences for all kinds of crimes – even if they are nonviolent. Here, even a theft crime of over $300 can result in a felony conviction with an attached prison sentence.
Just how long are felony prison sentences? For your first offense, it will be a shorter term (relatively speaking), but aggravating factors may qualify you for an extended term. Aggravating factors include prior convictions, committing a hate crime, or committing a crime on a juvenile or senior.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Class X Felony: 6-30 years in prison; extended term is punishable by 30-60 years in prison
- Class 1 Felony: 4-15 years in prison; extended term is punishable by 15-30 years in prison
- Class 2 Felony: 3-7 years in prison; extended term is punishable by 7-14 years in prison
- Class 3 Felony: 2-5 years in prison; extended term is punishable by 5-10 years in prison
- Class 4 Felony: 1-3 years in prison, extended term is punishable by 3-6 years in prison
Restrictions on Felons in Illinois
As mentioned above, even after serving jail time your felony conviction will follow you into your everyday life. Every state treats felons differently, but Illinois has the following restrictions on convicted felons:
Jobs: Illinois is currently trying to make it easier for convicted felons to find private sector jobs. In 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed “ban the box” legislation, which prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on job applications.
In 2014, Quinn signed legislation that prohibits jobs from conducting criminal background checks until a potential employee is considered qualified for the job.
A background check will still be performed, as it is in a majority of jobs. These new laws, however, pave the way for convicted felons to have a better chance at obtaining a job.
Federal Assistance (TANF): If you have been convicted of a felony for a drug offense, you cannot qualify for welfare (or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).
Federal Assistance (Student Loans): While felony convictions do affect whether or not you qualify for student loans, over time this status will change.
If, for example, you have been convicted on charges of drug possession, you can qualify for federal assistance one year after your offense. Selling drugs disqualifies you from receiving federal assistance for two years after your offense.
Even though paying for and attending higher education may take extra time, you should not be discouraged from pursuing an education if you have a felony conviction.
Housing: Certain apartment complexes or landlords will not allow convicted felons to lease or rent apartments. The Fair Housing Act does not have a clause protecting felons from discrimination, which can make it hard to find a place to live.
Firearms: You cannot possess, own, or use a firearm if you have been convicted of a felony in Illinois or any other jurisdiction.
Voting: While you are incarcerated or on parole for a felony (or misdemeanor), you cannot vote. However, after you have served your time, you can re-register and gain your voting rights back.
Public Record and Record Sealing
If you are convicted of a felony, that knowledge will be available to the public. A felony conviction cannot be expunged from your record, but there is the possibility that it can be sealed and hidden from public knowledge. It is important to note that this is not a guarantee. Usually certain drug or prostitution offenses are the only kinds of felonies that qualify for record sealing.
Of course, if you have been charged with a felony, the best thing to do is craft a strong defense so that you can avoid conviction in the first place. An experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer can use their knowledge to attempt to get your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped, or help to prove your innocence.
Whether you are currently facing felony charges or attempting to deal with the repercussions of a felony conviction, reach out today for a free consultation regarding your legal options.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.