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Rolling Meadows Criminal Defense LawyerAny criminal charge can be life-changing, but the criminal penalties and personal consequences associated with violent offenses are especially severe. If you or a loved one were charged with domestic battery, sexual assault, homicide, or another violent offense, the need for strong legal counsel cannot be overstated. Your lawyer can investigate your case and determine the best way to proceed. In some cases, the defendant's best option is to fight the charges at trial and hope for an acquittal. In other cases, it is better to arrange a plea deal or plea bargain. 

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a criminal charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or some other benefit. For example, a prosecutor might agree to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea. Or, the prosecutor might agree to recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. 

Plea bargains are not available in every case, and they are not always in the defendant's best interest. In some cases, it is better to take the case to trial. However, plea bargains can be beneficial because they offer the opportunity to resolve the case without going to trial. A plea bargain can also result in a lighter sentence than the defendant would receive if convicted at trial.

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Oakbrook Terrace DUI Defense LawyerMost people are familiar with the “legal limit” for blood alcohol content (BAC). In 49 U.S. states, including Illinois, the legal limit is 0.08 percent. A driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more is intoxicated “per se,” or intoxicated as a matter of law. If you are pulled over by the police, given a breath test, and the results show a BAC over the legal limit, you will be arrested for drunk driving.

However, in some cases, it is possible for an individual to avoid conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) even if they blew over 0.08 percent. Read on to learn more.

Breathalyzer Test Results May Be Unreliable

The portable breathalyzers police carry around with them are used to establish probable cause for the DUI arrest. Once someone is arrested, they take a second breath test at the police station. The results of this evidentiary test are used as evidence in the DUI case.

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IL defense lawyerIllinois law defines assault as conduct that is offensive or threatening, while battery refers to actual physical contact. Assault and/or battery charges often follow a physical altercation or fight. Assault and battery charges can be misdemeanors or felonies depending on the nature of the alleged offense. Being convicted of either offense can lead to serious repercussions, including jail time. Having a conviction on your criminal record can also dramatically impact employment and housing opportunities.

If you or a loved one were charged with assault or battery, contact a criminal defense lawyer right away. Your attorney can begin building a strong case in your defense and ensure that your rights are protected.

Defense Strategies for Assault and Battery Charges in Illinois

Being convicted of assault or battery can threaten your future – especially if aggravating circumstances are present. Criminal defense attorneys use a variety of strategies when representing defendants accused of assault or battery. Some of the most common defense strategies include:

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Most people take prescription medications from time to time. An individual recovering from surgery may take prescription pain medicine. Someone with an anxiety disorder may take anti-anxiety medication. When a doctor prescribes a medication to a patient, the doctor is essentially giving the patient authorization to take the medication. Many people are shocked to learn that they can face criminal charges for driving under the influence (DUI) for taking medicine that was lawfully prescribed to them. DUI involving prescription medication can lead to driver’s license suspension or revocation, expensive fines, or even jail time.

Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Medication

The term “driving under the influence” is often used synonymously with drunk driving. However, alcohol is not the only substance that can lead to DUI charges.

Illinois law states that a person may be charged with DUI for driving under the influence of:

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IL defense lawyerSoaring gas prices, food shortages, inflation, and countless other issues have made the first half of 2022 very difficult for Americans. Many people are struggling to make ends meet and fulfill their financial obligations. As a result, more and more people are buying items outside of the typical retail stores. They may turn to Facebook Marketplace, eBay, eBid, Craigslist, and other websites to buy used items instead of shelling out money for brand new items at the store. Unfortunately, some of the items that are sold online are stolen, and buyers may find themselves facing criminal charges for receipt of stolen goods.

Stolen Goods Being Sold on Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are great places to find deals on everything from home goods to vehicles. However, these websites have also become popular places for thieves to resell items that were shoplifted from the store or stolen from other parties. Facebook Marketplace seems to be the preferred website for these illegal transactions because there is little oversight or regulation. Unfortunately, some buyers think that they are buying legitimate items legally when they are actually purchasing solen goods. In Illinois, possession of stolen goods constitutes theft. Someone who purchases or receives a stolen item may face the same criminal penalties as if someone who physically stole the item from the store shelf.

What to Do If You Are Facing Theft Charges for Receipt of Stolen Items

If you or a loved one were charged with theft because you possessed stolen or shoplifted items, know that the consequences can be severe. Theft of items valued at less than $500 is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. However, if the stolen item was worth more than $500, the crime is a felony offense punishable by a maximum fine of $25,000 and three to seven years in prison. You or your loved one could be facing substantial jail time for buying stolen goods.

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IL defense lawyerEveryone has heard the classic line that “your home is your castle.” This means that your residence is considered sacred, and deserves protection from unwanted intrusion by others. One way Illinois recognizes this right is through its laws against burglary and criminal trespass to a residence. These are both types of unwanted home intrusion. But how are they different?

What is Criminal Trespass to a Residence?

In Illinois law, if you knowingly enter someone else’s home, or stay there without their permission, that is considered “criminal trespass.” The key to charging and proving this criminal offense is intent. For the trespass to be unlawful, the offender must have knowingly entered the property without the owner’s permission or stayed there after knowing that they were unwelcome there.

Accidentally wandering onto someone’s property is not criminal trespass—but intentionally ignoring no trespassing signs or a locked door may be. If the property is unoccupied at the time, this offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, or two years probation with formal supervision. If the home is occupied, it is considered a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

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shutterstock_2036968964.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase “assault and battery,” as though this were a single offense. So you may be surprised that in Illinois, unlike some states, these are actually two different crimes that can be charged separately. Under Illinois law, battery is either conduct causing bodily harm or insulting, provocative, or unwanted physical contact with another person. Assault, on the other hand, is intentional conduct that causes the fear of imminent violence. So while a battery would generally include actual physical contact or injury, an assault would merely be a real or implied threat of physical harm.

Why does this matter? Because in Illinois, even without laying a finger on someone, just threatening them with words or actions until they feared for their safety is a crime that deserves punishment.

For “simple assault,” a Class C misdemeanor, that penalty is a maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail, along with community service of up to 120 hours. And if you are pointing a gun or knife in a threatening way at the time, then that can up the ante to “aggravated assault.” This can be charged as either a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a $2,500 fine, or a more serious Class 4 felony, which carries the potential for as much as three years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. (Plus, with any prior convictions for aggravated assault, the prison term can increase to a maximum of three to six years.)

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IL defense lawyerCrimes that affect children are taken very seriously, and a person who is accused of these types of offenses may face a lengthy prison sentence if they are convicted, as well as multiple other types of penalties. Sex crimes that allegedly involve child victims are considered to be especially reprehensible, and offenses related to child pornography will usually be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those who are accused of possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography will need to understand the specific charges they may face, the penalties that may apply if they are convicted, and their options for defense.

Illinois Child Pornography Crimes

According to Illinois law, child pornography may include any depictions of a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. This may include actual or simulated sexual intercourse and other activities meant to stimulate sexual arousal, as well as depictions of a child’s unclothed genitals or other private parts. Child pornography may consist of photographs, videos, live performances, or other visual depictions of children that are sexual in nature. Depictions of a person over the age of 18 with a severe intellectual disability may also be considered child pornography.

A person may be charged with possession of child pornography based on any materials that they know or should have known depict a person under the age of 18. If the materials in question consist of videos or other moving images, or if material depicts a child under the age of 13, a person may be charged with a Class 2 felony, which carried a prison sentence of three to seven years. If child pornography consists of photos or other still images, a person may be charged with a Class 3 felony, which carries a prison sentence of two to five years. Possession of child pornography may also result in a fine of up to $100,000.

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Il defense lawyerThere are a variety of situations where a person may face criminal charges based on accusations of theft. Some of the most common charges in these cases involve claims that a person has committed retail theft, which is commonly known as shoplifting. While this may seem like a relatively minor offense, there are a variety of factors that may result in serious charges that can lead to large fines or significant jail time if a person is convicted. By understanding the types of actions that could lead to these charges and the potential penalties for these offenses, those who have been accused of retail theft can determine their best options for defense.

Misdemeanor or Felony Retail Theft Charges

Illinois law defines several different types of actions that are considered retail theft. In general, these charges may apply if a person takes any merchandise from a retail store without paying the full retail value. While pocketing or concealing items and leaving a store is one of the most common forms of shoplifting, retail theft charges may also apply if a person alters or removes price tags or transfers items into different packaging with the intent of paying a lower price. Intentionally under-ringing the price of an item is also considered to be retail theft, including when it is done by a cashier or a customer using a self-checkout. A person may also face criminal charges if they fail to return property to its owner after renting or leasing equipment.

If a person commits the forms of retail theft described above, and the value of the items stolen is below $300, they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. In these cases, a conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500. If the value of property is over $300, including in multiple incidents that are considered to be a “continuing course of conduct” during a one-year period, a person may be charged with a Class 3 felony. In these cases, a conviction may result in a prison sentence of between two and five years. Felony convictions may also result in fines of up to $25,000. An offender may also be required to pay restitution to the owner of the retail establishment for the value of the goods that were stolen.

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IL defense lawyerIt is true that a first-time simple DUI is usually charged as a misdemeanor, both in Illinois and elsewhere. If the case is relatively simple and you did not cause any real harm, you might even get court supervision instead of jail time. However, there are some circumstances that render even a first-time DUI so serious that it will be treated as a felony. If you are facing felony DUI charges, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney to put forth a strong defense in the hopes of having your charges at least reduced back to a misdemeanor.

What Circumstances Make a First DUI a Felony?

In Illinois, a felony DUI is considered an “aggravated DUI.” This means that there are circumstances present that make the offense more serious. A third DUI is automatically a Class 3 felony, but a first DUI is usually a misdemeanor. However, even a first DUI can be charged as a felony in these circumstances:

  • Children - Having a minor under 16 years old in your vehicle while driving intoxicated is a Class 4 felony.
  • Commercial activity - If you were driving for hire, such as through a ridesharing company like Uber, a DUI will be charged as a felony if you were carrying a paying passenger.
  • Bodily harm - Causing an accident and seriously injuring someone because you were driving drunk is a very serious crime, and could result in a felony conviction. DUI with injury will be charged as a Class 4 felony if anyone suffered great bodily harm, disfigurement, or permanent disability. If there were only minor injuries, a skilled attorney may be able to argue that a misdemeanor charge would be more appropriate.
  • Death - Killing someone in a DUI crash is the worst possible outcome of drunk driving. It is charged as at least a Class 2 felony and could land you in prison for three to seven years or more.
  • Insurance - Driving drunk while knowing that you do not have insurance to cover any damages you might cause is regarded as more serious and may result in felony charges.
  • License - If your license is suspended, revoked, or anything but valid and clear, you run the risk of getting a felony for driving intoxicated even if it is your first offense. Licenses are often suspended or revoked due to multiple moving violations - there will be little leeway on a DUI accusation if you were already not supposed to be on the road due to poor driving history.

Felony DUI charges are very serious and can have a major impact on the rest of your life. It is important that you follow the recommendations of your defense attorney to give you the best possible chances of avoiding a felony conviction.

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IL defense lawyerSince 2019, the city of Chicago has put a ban on “assault weapons.” This law was in response to a series of mass shootings taking place in Illinois and across the entire nation, mostly involving large, automatic rifles. No single, unified definition of an “assault weapon” exists. States have turned to varying formulations and definitions in an attempt to define what constitutes an “assault weapon.” It is important for Cook County gun owners to be familiar with how the law actually defines possession of an assault weapon, lest you find yourself facing a firearms charge.

What is the Definition of an Assault Weapon in Chicago?

There are several ways to be in possession of an “assault weapon” in Chicago. City code defines an assault weapon as “any weapon that shoots . . . automatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” This definition would include all automatic rifles. If you hold down the trigger and more than one bullet comes out, you may be looking at an assault weapon by Chicago’s standards.

This definition also includes the frame or receiver of automatic rifles, as well as “any part designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun,” or any collection of firearm parts that one could assemble to construct a machine gun. Even disassembled, this type of rifle is illegal in Chicago.

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What Does "Mutual Combat" Mean?

Posted on in Assault

IL defense lawyerA recent decision by Cook County prosecutors not to pursue charges against five suspected gang members involved in a fatal Chicago shootout left many locals surprised and confused. Although all five were arrested on suspicion of murder and aggravated battery, they were later released from jail without being formally charged. The reason prosecutors cite for declining to charge the shooters is that they were engaged in “mutual combat,” according to a police report. But what does that mean?

If you are facing violent crime charges of any type, contacting an attorney as soon as possible is of great importance. You may have defenses available to you depending on the circumstances of your individual case, but you will need an experienced attorney to put on the best possible defense.

What Is the Legal Definition of “Mutual Combat”?

Simply put, mutual combat occurs when two adults willingly fight. In legal terms, mutual combat is defined as “a fight or struggle which both parties enter willingly or where two persons, upon a sudden quarrel and in hot blood, mutually fight upon equal terms and where death results from the combat.” This definition comes from a decision by the Supreme Court of Illinois in the case of People v. Austin, which dates back to 1990.

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IL defense lawyerIf you have been arrested and charged with a crime, your highest priority is likely to avoid conviction altogether. However, if you are ultimately convicted, you still may have hopes of avoiding a prison sentence. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible for criminal defendants in Cook County to avoid prison time through an alternative sentencing program. An attorney can help you determine whether you may be eligible for alternative sentencing and negotiate on your behalf with the goal of achieving this outcome.

Cook County Alternative Sentencing Options

The availability of alternative sentencing largely depends on the county in which you are facing charges. Cook County offers several different programs that may be available to you, including:

  • Deferred prosecution - Certain non-violent misdemeanor and felony offenders may be eligible for a deferred prosecution program if they have no prior convictions and have not participated in the program before. The program typically requires the offender to complete requirements including education and community service within a specified time frame, after which their charges can be dismissed.
  • Drug or mental health treatment - High-risk non-violent offenders who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder or psychiatric condition may be eligible for a probationary program that includes participation in a treatment program.
  • Veterans treatment - Similar to drug or mental health treatment, this option is available to non-violent offenders who have a record of military service without dishonorable discharge.
  • Second Chance Probation - This option is available statewide to offenders charged with low-level, non-violent felony crimes such as drug possession, theft, burglary, and criminal trespassing. Eligible participants must not have a prior felony conviction. In order to successfully complete probation, participants must meet several requirements, including refraining from committing further crimes or possessing firearms, submitting to drug tests, seeking education and employment, performing community service, and making restitution to victims of the crime.
  • Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program - The SWAP program allows non-violent misdemeanor, felony, and traffic offenders to perform supervised community service for public works projects instead of serving time in jail or prison.
  • Restorative Justice Community Court - The North Lawndale community of Chicago offers a unique option for non-violent offenders between the ages of 18 and 26, in which they agree to complete a course of action to repair the harm caused by their crime.

Contact a Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney

At Hartsfield Law, we are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients who are facing criminal charges. If you are concerned about a possible conviction and prison sentence, we will review your case and help you pursue any available alternative sentencing options. Contact us at 312-345-1700 for a free consultation with our Chicago criminal defense lawyer.

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chicago criminal defense lawyerIn Illinois, a conviction for a criminal offense can result in serious consequences including fines and imprisonment. However, many criminal defendants face hardship even before their trial due to policies like cash bail requirements for pretrial release. Cash bail policies are especially difficult for low-income defendants who may not have the resources to post bail, and who therefore must remain in custody while waiting for trial. Fortunately, Illinois has recently passed a bill that will end the use of cash bail in the coming years.

The Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act

In February 2021, the Illinois legislature passed House Bill 3653, ushering in large-scale changes to the state’s criminal justice system. Some components of the bill have already taken effect, while others will continue to be phased in over time. One major component of the bill is the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, which will eliminate cash bail statewide by January 1, 2023. Notably, Illinois is the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation to end cash bail.

Once the law fully goes into effect, Illinois courts will no longer be able to set bail payments of any amount as a condition for a defendant’s release in advance of their trial. Rather, the courts will be required to implement new systems to determine when a defendant may safely be released. Under these new systems, most defendants will be released from custody under their own recognizance, with the expectation that they will return for their court dates. Pretrial detention will be reserved only for defendants who have been charged with certain serious offenses, or who are found to pose a significant threat to another person or to be likely to fail to appear in court.

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Rolling Meadows IL criminal defense attorneyIf you have picked up any newspaper or turned on cable news in the past few days, you have likely heard that actor/comedian Bill Cosby was released from prison this week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 sexual assault conviction. In its decision, the court wrote that Cosby’s due process rights were violated. While many legal scholars have agreed that the court made the right decision, many people across the country, including Cosby’s accusers, are outraged by the decision and Cosby’s freedom.

The Case

In 2018, a Pennsylvania jury found Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim in his home in 2004. In 2005, the victim went to the police about the assault, but no criminal charges were pressed. The following year, the victim and Cosby reached a $3.4 million settlement in a civil lawsuit.

Several years after the settlement agreement, the Associated Press (AP) sued and won to have Cosby's depositions in the civil case unsealed. There were also dozens of women who came forward, alleging that Cosby drugged and raped them, too. New prosecutors were interested in bringing criminal charges against the actor; however, the only case that fell within the statute of limitations was the victim from the 2004 incident.

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Chicago theft defense attorneyIt should come as no surprise that taking property that does not lawfully belong to you is a criminal offense, and in Illinois, you could face misdemeanor or felony theft charges depending on the circumstances. However, you may be unaware that simply having stolen property in your possession can also be a crime, even if you are not the person who originally stole it. It can come as a shock to be charged with possession of stolen property, especially if you were not aware that it was stolen. In these cases, you should work with an attorney who can help you present a strong defense to the charges you are facing.

Illinois Law Regarding Possession of Stolen Property

The Illinois Criminal Code defines several different actions that are considered criminal theft. Most of them involve actively seizing another person’s property, whether by threat, force, deception, or without the person’s knowledge. However, state law also makes it a crime to “obtain control over stolen property” if the recipient knows that it is stolen or should reasonably be aware that it is stolen.

This means you could be charged if someone tells you they stole something and gives it to you or asks you to hold onto it, but you could also be charged even if you were not told directly that the property was stolen. If you are sold property at a price that seems too good to be true, or if someone tries to sell you a car without title documentation, for example, you could be held responsible for failing to recognize the suspicious nature of the transaction.

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Chicago, IL criminal defense attorneyOver the last year, the use of no-knock search warrants in criminal cases has come under increased scrutiny due to the risk of harm to innocent and vulnerable people who may be on the property. In fact, many cities and police departments have started to ban the practice outright. However, the State of Illinois still allows no-knock warrants under some circumstances, and if your property is subject to a warrant, it is crucial that you understand your rights.

When Can a Search Warrant Be Issued in Illinois?

The Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights provides protection from unreasonable search and seizure, meaning that law enforcement cannot simply search a person’s property on a whim. In most cases, officers will first need to obtain a search warrant, and in order to do so, they must demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found on the property. Warrants are often used in cases involving drug possession and distribution, illegal weapons possession, stolen property, and kidnapping, among others.

Usually, before executing a warrant, police are required to attempt to make their presence known to occupants of the property by knocking and announcing themselves. However, a no-knock warrant is an exception to this rule. In order to obtain a no-knock search warrant in Illinois, officers must demonstrate that giving notice would make it likely that an occupant would either destroy evidence or use a weapon against an officer or someone else on the property.

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Rolling Meadows gun crime defense attorneyIn Illinois and throughout the U.S., people have the constitutional right to bear arms. However, that does not mean the possession of firearms and other weapons is unregulated. Illinois prohibits the possession of certain kinds of weapons outright and requires gun owners to obtain a Firearm Owners ID card (FOID) in order to be in compliance with state law. If you have been convicted of a felony in Illinois or another state, your FOID can be revoked, and future applications for an FOID can be denied. You may also face serious criminal penalties if you are found to be in unlawful possession of a weapon with a previous felony conviction on your record.

What Types of Weapons Are Prohibited for Convicted Felons?

As with all people in the State of Illinois, convicted felons are prohibited from knowingly possessing certain kinds of dangerous weapons under any circumstances, including bludgeons, metal knuckles, throwing stars, and switchblades. However, convicted felons are, under most circumstances, also prohibited from possessing any kind of firearm or ammunition, even those that are legally permitted in Illinois under other circumstances. The only exception is a situation in which a felon has successfully appealed for relief in court or with the Director of the Illinois State Police.

Consequences for a Felon’s Unlawful Possession of a Weapon 

The basic sentence for unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon in Illinois is a Class 3 felony, which can include between 2 and 10 years in prison. For repeat offenses, the sentence increases to a Class 2 felony, and the length of imprisonment increases to between 3 and 14 years. However, under certain circumstances, a first offense can be charged as a Class 2 felony. This includes cases in which the offender’s prior conviction was for:

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Oakbrook Terrace criminal defense attorney DUI

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs seriously endangers both the driver and other people on the road, and as such, it is treated as a serious offense under Illinois law. Depending on the circumstances, a first-time DUI offender may be fortunate to receive only a one-year driver’s license revocation and court supervision, but a misdemeanor conviction with fines and jail time is also possible. Additionally, certain aggravating factors can mean that even a first offense is charged as a felony. If you are facing charges of aggravated DUI, you need an attorney who can help you understand and protect your rights.

Illinois Aggravated DUI Offenses

In Illinois, a variety of actions can constitute an aggravated DUI offense, regardless of whether the offender has any prior DUI convictions. Some examples include:

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Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney aggravated speeding

While no one is happy to receive a speeding ticket, many people view them as a nuisance at worst, possibly meaning that they have to pay a fine or make an appearance in traffic court. However, in Illinois, the consequences for speeding can be significantly more severe depending on the circumstances. If you are charged with aggravated speeding, you can be arrested, and you may face a criminal conviction and the accompanying sentence.

What Qualifies as Aggravated Speeding in Illinois?

A person can be ticketed for speeding in Illinois if they exceed the posted speed limit by any amount, but in most cases, doing so is considered a petty offense. However, when a driver exceeds the speed limit by more than 25 miles per hour, the offense becomes a criminal misdemeanor known as aggravated speeding. Driving at a speed of 26 to 34 miles per hour above the speed limit is a Class B misdemeanor, and a conviction can result in a sentence of up to six months in jail and up to $1,500 in fines. At a speed of 35 miles per hour or more above the speed limit, a driver can face Class A misdemeanor charges, with a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.

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