Illinois Criminal Sentencing Guidelines

When you have been charged with a crime in Chicago it is important to understand the potential consequences of a conviction. Once you have been convicted of a crime the law requires a judge to determine an appropriate criminal sentence for your specific case. The judge must weigh a variety of mitigating and aggravating factors, follow specific guidelines, and impose a sentence that is permitted by law. You can increase the chances of getting a lenient and fair sentence when you hire an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer at Kostopoulos Law Group to defend you. Call today for assistance.


What Happens at a Criminal Sentencing Hearing?

Each criminal case in Chicago is unique. In order to make sure that the punishment fits the crime, Illinois law requires a judge to review a case and determine an appropriate sentence. This review will take place at your sentencing hearing.

At this hearing, the prosecutor will argue that the circumstances of your case require a harsh penalty. They will argue that the presence of aggravating factors – things that make your case more serious or dangerous – support a harsh punishment. Your criminal defense attorney will argue that the presence of mitigating factors – things that explain or justify your conduct – support a more lenient punishment. The judge presiding over your criminal sentencing hearing must consider any and all mitigating and aggravating factors that are presented.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors, as defined in 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2, include:

  • Causing or threatening serious harm;
  • Receiving compensation for the criminal act;
  • History of criminal activity;
  • The sentence is necessary to deter other people from committing the same crime;
  • Abuse of public office;
  • Abuse of a professional reputation or position;
  • The victim was elderly, disabled, or a peace officer;
  • The crime was motivated by race, creed, color, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability;
  • The crime took place on school grounds or  in a place of worship, day-care center, or nursing home;
  • Acts related to organized gang activity; and
  • The use or possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon.

Mitigating Factors

Mitigating factors, as defined in 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.1, include:

  • The conduct did not cause or threaten serious harm;
  • Substantial grounds to excuse or justify the conduct exist, even though they were insufficient to establish a defense;
  • The conduct was organized or facilitated by another person;
  • The conduct was the result of unexpected circumstances;
  • The defendant has or will compensate the victim for their injuries;
  • The defendant is likely to comply with the terms of probation;
  • The defendant has a mental disability;
  • The defendant exhibits characteristics that would indicate that he/she is unlikely to continue committing crimes;
  • The defendant has no previous criminal history;
  • The defendant would benefit from a supervised counseling or treatment program;
  • A harsh criminal sentence would endanger the defendant’s medical condition; and
  • A harsh criminal sentence would place an undue burden and hardship on the defendant’s dependents.

Possible Criminal Sentences

The sentence that the judge imposes must be within the range of applicable punishments that are linked to your specific crime. These punishments can include imprisonment, probation, and fines.


Each crime in Illinois is classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. These two classifications are then broken down into sub-categories. The specific charge you face will determine the amount of jail and/or prison time you could be sentenced to. Some crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences. If you are convicted of a crime that has a mandatory minimum sentence, your criminal punishment will include a term of imprisonment in a jail or prison. This minimum penalty varies with each crime, but guarantees that you will spend time behind bars.


Judges may also have the discretion to impose fines in addition to or instead of jail time. Fines for misdemeanors cannot exceed $2,500. Fines for felonies cannot exceed $25,000, unless explicitly permitted by law.


If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, a judge may include or impose a term of supervisory probation as a part of your criminal sentence.

After a judge has reviewed the mitigating and aggravating factors in your case he/she will determine a criminal sentence that is within the appropriate parameters of your criminal offense. If you have been convicted of a felony, the judge must clearly state the reason(s) that led him/her to impose this specific sentence.

Penalties for Crimes in Illinois

This document, provided by the Illinois General Assembly Research Unit, provides an overview of penalties for crimes.


Fighting to Limit the Severity of Your Criminal Sentence

Hiring an attorney to defend you is the best way to limit the severity of the criminal penalties you will face. An attorney can leverage the prosecution into offering reduced charges, negotiate alternative sentences, and argue mitigating factors that limit the harshness of your sentence. Contact our experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyers today for more information about how we can help you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

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