woman in jail cellThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing the seriousness of misdemeanor charges in Peoria, Illinois. My previous post discussed the consequences of having a misdemeanor conviction included on one’s criminal record. The long-term or permanent impact of a misdemeanor on one’s reputation, employment opportunities, housing options, etc. can be devastating. Retaining a criminal defense attorney to defend you against misdemeanor charges can help mitigate or prevent such consequences and protect your legal rights. In this post, I will discuss another reason to take such charges seriously – misdemeanor convictions may result in elevated penalties for subsequent criminal activity. If you need assistance, contact my office to speak with a lawyer.

Under the Illinois Criminal Code, certain offenses will be charged as a misdemeanor for first time offenders but are elevated to felony offenses for repeat offenders. The potential penalties for misdemeanors are considerably less severe than those associated with felony convictions. For instance, Class A misdemeanors, the most serious, are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. First-time misdemeanor offenders are, in many cases, eligible for court supervision or probation rather than required to serve jail time. On the other hand, a Class 4 felony charge, the least serious felony, is punishable by between one and three years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. While no one anticipates committing a subsequent offense at the time they are charged with a crime, this is just another reason to defend oneself to the full extent possible when charged with a first-time misdemeanor. Such charges may be dropped for a variety of reasons and convictions may be avoided with the help of an experienced criminal attorney.

Consider the following example. A person is charged with theft for shoplifting a $100 jacket from a retail store. Because the person is a first-time offender with no previous criminal history, they are charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The individual does not take the charge seriously and puts up no defense, pleads guilty, is convicted, and sentenced to two years of probation. A year later, the same individual decides to steal a $200 bag from another store. Because this is a second offense, the theft charge will be elevated to a Class 4 felony. Not only has the person violated the terms of their probation, which will likely have additional consequences, they now also face between one to three years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000.

If you are facing misdemeanor charges, it is important to consider the long-term impacts of a conviction. I have experience defending Peoria residents in misdemeanor cases and am ready to assist you. Contact my office today to speak to an attorney. We also serve clients in Bloomington, Decatur, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington and the counties of Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford. Areas where we handle federal cases include Peoria, Springfield, Champaign, and Rock Island.