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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Wirth

DUI Penalties: Understanding the Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges in Illinois.

In Illinois, a DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on a variety of factors. This article reviews the maximum penalties for each class of misdemeanor and felony.

Generally, felonies and misdemeanors are distinguished by the term of imprisonment allowed for the offense. A felony is any offense that is punishable by one year or more of imprisonment, while the maximum term for a misdemeanor is up to 364 days in jail.


Illinois law has three classes of misdemeanor crimes and five classes of felony offenses, subject to some exceptions. The law distinguishes the offenses by the maximum fine and/or term of imprisonment allowed upon a finding of guilt in court.


It is important to understand that these are the absolute maximum penalties that can be given by a court for each class of offense. A court may impose a different sentence, including a sentence that does not include any imprisonment, whenever allowed and deemed appropriate during sentencing.


Classes of Misdemeanors in Illinois

  • Class A Misdemeanor. Maximum penalty is up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

  • Class B Misdemeanor. Maximum penalty is up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.

  • Class C Misdemeanor. Maximum Penalty is up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.

It should be noted that court costs and/or court-ordered programs may incur additional financial obligations, aside from the maximum penalty fine for a charge. For example, a defendant may receive a fine of $2,500 for a Class A Misdemeanor, but they may be ordered to pay court costs and complete treatment at their own expense.


Depending on eligibility, a court may also give different types of dispositions in a misdemeanor case, as outlined in 730 ILCS 5/5-6-1. The following features distinguish supervision, conditional discharge and probation:

  • Supervision. A sentence that does not carry any jail time but allows the court to impose other obligations on the defendant, such as payment of fines and/or completion of treatment. Generally, supervision is not considered a “conviction,” absent specific traffic dispositions for CDL-licensed drivers.

  • Conditional Discharge. Conditional discharge is considered a “conviction,” but does not carry a jail sentence or require reporting to a probation officer. Instead, the court may impose other requirements during sentencing, such as fines, community service, court monitoring and/or treatment. Unlike supervision, conditional discharge on a DUI charge will result in the revocation of a defendant’s Illinois driving privileges.

  • Probation. Probation is considered a “conviction” and the defendant may be subject to a term of jail time, as well as monitoring by the probation department. A sentence of probation on an Illinois DUI charge will result in the revocation of a defendant’s Illinois drivers license.

Classes of Felony Offenses in Illinois

In Illinois, an offense may be charged as a felony by preliminary hearing or indictment. Some criminal offenses in Illinois can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, subject to the State’s discretion. It is important to note that a misdemeanor charge may be upgraded to a felony if certain aggravating factors exist.


The classes of felony offenses in Illinois vary regarding imprisonment and whether a defendant is eligible for probation. A sentence of supervision or conditional discharge is not available for felony offenses. With rare exception, the maximum fine on all Illinois felonies is $25,000. Illinois law distinguishes the classes of felonies in the following manner, without accounting for any potential extended-term sentencing:


  • First Degree Murder (Class M Felony). First-degree murder is in a class of its own in Illinois, charged as a “Class M Felony.” The offense carries a minimum of 20 years imprisonment with the maximum punishment being a life sentence. Illinois no longer has the death penalty pursuant to legislation signed by former Governor Quinn in 2011. Therefore, life without parole is the maximum penalty (also known as “natural life”). If convicted of first-degree murder, the defendant is required to serve the entirety of their sentence, with no credits or early release. 720 ILCS 5/9-1.

  • Class X Felony. A Class X felony carries a mandatory sentence of 6-30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). If found guilty, the defendant is not eligible for probation, even if they have no criminal history. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-25.

  • Class 1 Felony. A Class 1 felony carries a sentencing range of 4-15 years of imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. However, the court is allowed to sentence a defendant to probation, unless the offense is specifically deemed non-probationable. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-30.

  • Class 2 Felony. A Class 2 felony carries a sentencing range of 3-7 years of imprisonment with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The court may sentence a defendant to probation unless the specific offense has been deemed non-probationable. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-35.

  • Class 3 Felony. A Class 3 felony carries a sentencing range of 2-5 years of imprisonment with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The court may sentence a defendant to probation unless the specific offense has been deemed non-probationable. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-40.

  • Class 4 Felony. A Class 4 felony carries a sentencing range of 1-3 years of imprisonment with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The court may sentence a defendant to probation unless the specific offense has been deemed non-probationable. If a crime is designated a felony but is not assigned a specific class in the law, it is given a classification as a Class 4 felony. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-45 and 5/5-4.5-85.

Considerations in a DUI Case

Many clients hire our services after they have been convicted of a DUI in court and have had their license revoked by the Secretary of State. Some are shocked that their license was revoked and believed their court case was closed at the time of sentencing. It is important to remember that a conviction on an Illinois DUI charge will result in the revocation of Illinois driving privileges.

Before pleading guilty to a DUI charge, it is important to fully understand the potential sentencing, as well as the implications on driving privileges. Our office focuses exclusively on DUI defense in the overall criminal defense field. We are happy to provide a free consultation to those with questions about a pending DUI charge or revoked license.

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