We hear this question from clients all the time. Naturally, if you are charged with a crime, the prospect of serving time is frightening. Whether you will be sentenced to jail, however, depends on a variety of factors. The good news is that while many crimes carry possible prison sentences, courts frequently do not impose jail time for misdemeanor first-time offenders.

In Illinois, beginning with a Class C Misdemeanor, you can be sentenced for up to 30 days in jail. A Class B Misdemeanor carries a possible 6 months penalty, and Class A can mean confinement for up to a year. In Cook County, if you are a first time misdemeanor offender, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any jail time. Instead, you may have to take classes, pay a fine or do community service.

On a second offense, however, your chances of jail time increase substantially, but even then, your sentence depends on the nature of the offense, your background and the judge. An experienced attorney can present your case to the judge in the most favorable light, highlighting positive facts about your background. In some cases, the attorney can still successfully negotiate a plea agreement where you would perform community service, receive treatment and/or pay fines in lieu of jail time.

For a first time DUI with no injuries, there is a strong possibility that you will not serve time in jail. For a second DUI offense, your chances of a jail sentence increase substantially, but even then it depends on the circumstances of your case. If you are driving on a suspended license due to an underlying alcohol-related offense, Illinois law does require jail time, although you may be able to do community service instead of jail on a first offense.

Felonies are punishable by at least one year in state prison. Felony offenses range from Class 1 to Class X, with Class X being the most severe. Class X felonies are punishable by a minimum of 6 years. Your chances of receiving jail time are much greater than with a misdemeanor, but you may be eligible for probation under certain limited circumstances.

If you violate a sentence of supervision or probation, you have a very high risk of receiving jail time, and you should contact an attorney immediately. Showing up for a violation hearing without legal counsel sounds a signal to the judge that you are not taking the process seriously. In cases of this sort, it is not unusual for judges to conclude that only a trip to county jail will help you focus on your problem.

In all cases, you should consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to discuss the best strategy for your situation. Depending on your particular circumstances, an attorney may succeed in getting your case dismissed, such as through a motion to quash a search due to inadequate probable cause. An attorney can also help determine if your case is winnable at trial.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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