The primary difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the penalties as well as the impact a conviction may have on your future. The charging document should tell you which one you are facing.

Misdemeanors range from Class C to Class A. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in county jail. Class B and Class C carry much shorter potential jail terms.

Felonies, on the other hand, range in severity from Class 4 to Class X. While a Class 4 felony is punishable by 1 to 3 years in state prison, a Class X can receive 6 to 30 years.

If charged with a felony, you will almost certainly be held overnight for a bond hearing the next day. A judge will then set bond after hearing the state’s evidence regarding your criminal history. An experienced criminal defense attorney can instead present reasons why the judge should reduce your bond. With a misdemeanor, the police will frequently allow you to leave the station on your own recognizance.

In terms of your future, a felony conviction may render you automatically ineligible for employment with many business or government employers. Employers are more likely to overlook a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is also more likely to qualify for expungement, which means you may get a clean slate. (Please note that many felonies may now be sealed, in which case your criminal record should only be available to police agencies).

When you are arrested, a police officer issues a ticket or ciminal complaint. While you may initially be charged with a misdemeanor, the state may elect to upgrade your offense to a felony. This will not necessarily happen on the day of your arrest. After reviewing the evidence, the state may determine it has the evidence needed to justify a felony. Or the state may upgrade your offense based on your past criminal history. In some cases, defendants with an extensive cminal history may even face a Class X felony even if the original crime was relatively trivial.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is essential to contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the police acted improperly so that an attorney may petition the court to suppress the evidence of your crime. Even if the police acted improperly or the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate an agreement to reduce your felony or misdemeanor to a lower offense.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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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