Crimes are classified according to type and severity.  Felonies are notoriously the most serious crimes, usually carrying a minimum of one-year incarceration.  In Illinois there are 5 classes of felonies, the most serious (aside from first degree murder) being the Class X Felony.

The Illinois legislature has passed statutes that impose a sentence range, an extended term if certain aggravating factors exist, and the applicable fines for committing these crimes.  Below are the different classes of felonies and examples of offenses in each category.  This is not an exhaustive list, but will illustrate the degree of severity associated with each class.  In every class of felony you can also be fined $25,000 or more if specified.

The 5 Classes of Felonies

Class 4 felonies are the least severe and carry a potential sentence of 1-3 years incarceration that could be extended an additional 3-6 years.  This class of felonies include crimes such as aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a handgun, domestic battery, dog fighting, and stalking.

Class 3 felonies carry a potential sentence of 2-5 years, with an extended term of 5-10 years.  Examples of Class 3 offenses are aggravated battery, involuntary manslaughter, perjury, incest, and aggravated stalking.

Class 2 felonies carry a potential sentence of 3-7 years, with an extended term of 7-14 years.  Class 2 felonies include arson, bribery, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, burglary, and kidnapping.

Class 1 felonies carry a potential sentence of 4-15 years, with an extended term of 15-30 years.  Examples of this class of felonies are aggravated discharge of a firearm, criminal sexual assault, residential burglary, and vehicular hijacking.

Class X felonies represent the worst of the worst and typically have the word “aggravated” or “armed” in front of the offense, like aggravated arson, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, and armed violence.  The penalty for Class X felonies is between 6-30 years incarceration, with a possible extended term of 30-60 years.  If convicted and sentenced under this classification, probation is not allowed.

Aggravating Factors

Under Illinois law 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2, aggravating factors are weighed by the judge in deciding what sentence to impose in the above list of felony offenses.  Although there is a range for which the judge must stay in when rendering a sentence, aggravating factors could justify the use of the possible extended term sentence.  The list includes:

The defendant caused or threatened serious harm

The defendant was paid for committing the offense

The defendant has a prior criminal history

The crime was committed against an elderly or handicapped person

Certain crimes against postal workers and veterans

The defendant was motivated by racist or other discriminatory beliefs

The Severity of Class X Felonies

What makes a class X felony so different than other types of felony classification is the harshness of the imprisonment imposed, but also the fact that probation is not available for offenders.  This means that a first-time offender will most certainly be imprisoned because this option is off the table.

The only way to avoid the severity of the punishment that follows a Class X felony conviction is to have the charge amended.  The result is that plea agreements can be difficult to negotiate with prosecutors.  Understanding this should alert you to the need for a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney.