The felony charge sits just below terrorism and treason when ranking the criminal offenses that are known in the Chicago statues. It is a step up from the misdemeanor and carries a lot of serious consequences for the defendant including the loss of their liberty and a debilitating criminal record. As a rule of thumb, an offense becomes a felony if it is capable of attracting a punishment that exceeds one year in jail. Some jurisdictions have gone as far as setting mandatory sentencing for certain felonies in order to control the court process in such a way as not to dent public confidence in the system. Others have classified obsolete felonies as being non-prosecutable.
There is considerable public debate as to whether the classification of felonies is appropriate for this century. For a start, the idea of a permanent criminal record might sound good in terms of retribution and public safety. However, the reality is that people who are unable to find work will inevitably turn back to crime, which means that the vicious circle will never end. Nevertheless, the trial judge tends to take into consideration a number of factors at the sentence hearing including:
- Previous known criminality,