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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

Illinois Sentencing Guidelines

Posted on in Chicago criminal defense lawyer

Illinois sentencing guidelinesOne of the obvious first questions criminals have after being arrested is “how long will I be in jail?” The answer to that depends on a host of factors, including the crime, the circumstances, the accused’s criminal history, whether the accused is a juvenile, and where the crime was committed. Most cases are tried against criminals in municipal, city, or state level courts. Federal crimes are more serious and carry much stiffer penalties associated with them than state crimes. Federal crimes usually involve more than one state, or illegal items such as weapons being transported from one state to another.

A Brief History of Sentencing

Congress formed an agency entitled the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984. The Commission was tasked with implementing a new sentencing scheme to improve uniformity and fairness in sentencing practices. Before the creation of this Commission, judges nationwide enjoyed vast discretion in sentencing, a sentencing scheme known as indeterminate sentencing. Judges ultimately got to consider the circumstances, the criminal’s history, and anything else they deemed relevant in making sentencing decisions.

The Guidelines implemented by the Commission ultimately provided a “grid” approach to sentencing. This sentencing matrix essentially considers 1) the seriousness of the offense and 2) the offender’s past criminal history. This grid is still used in the federal system and similar schemes have been developed at the state level as well. The controversial aspect of this became what is known for “mandatory minimums.”

For example, in Illinois, the punishment for a felony other than for second degree murder “shall be a determinate sentence of not less than four years and not more than 15 years.” This means there is a mandatory minimum sentence of four years; i.e. a judge cannot use his discretion to sentence someone to less than four years for a felony. Many advocates suggest that mandatory minimums may be too severe in some circumstances. Consider an 87 year old woman who lives in a dangerous neighborhood who unlawfully owns a gun and will face a mandatory prison sentence. While some critics think that people should be held accountable for their actions regardless of circumstance (an “ignorance of the law is no excuse” type of mentality), most of us know that circumstances can make all of the difference.

Sentencing in Illinois

In 1989, the Supreme Court rendered the Guidelines as advisory. This applies only to federal courts, and leaves the states free to implement their own sentencing schemes, which may include mandatory minimums for some, if not most, crimes. The effect of this in Illinois leaves wide ranges of sentences for crimes. In a felony crime, the minimum may be four years, but can go all the way up to 15. If there is a mandatory minimum sentence, the only real way to avoid it would be to have the charges dismissed. Having the charges dismissed is not always possible, although a defense can argue that closer to four years is more appropriate than 15, which could result in a lesser sentence.

Our criminal defense attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. have significant experience working with judges, prosecutors, and the criminal justice system to ensure the most favorable outcome for our clients. As soon as you are charged with a crime, it is important for you to understand the possible sentence you may serve. The sooner you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side, the better your chances are at minimizing your time in jail. If you or anyone you know is facing a jail sentence, please do not hesitate to contact our DuPage criminal defense attorneys at 630-472-9700 today.

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