Truth-in-sentencing: defendants must serve more than 50% of the sentence imposed

by Sami Z Azhari on March 20, 2013

Illinois Felonies Served at 85%

Defendants in felony cases are subject to special rules in sentencing. Compared to misdemeanor sentencing, felonies are complicated. The court is governed by obscure rules that can sometimes produce unexpected results. And the last thing a defense attorney wants in court is to advise a client on a sentence and have something unexpected come up.

When the judge determines that a penitentiary sentence is appropriate, the most important issue is whether the state’s Truth-in-Sentencing law applies.

The term truth-in-sentencing refers to a statute that requires the Department of Corrections to execute a sentence in a manner that is consistent with the term of years handed down by the judge.

Basically, the truth-in-sentencing law was enacted to stop early release.

Most felony prison sentences are served at 50% of the time indicated by the court on the mittimus (eg, sentencing order – in Cook County, judges call this the mitt). When the truth-in-sentencing law was enacted in 1998, defendants who were sentenced for first degree murder were serving 50% or less of their sentences.

The statute that increased the amount of time that has to be served comes from the Code of Corrections at 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3. It provides the following rules for prison inmates:

A defendant who is convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1) or terrorism (720 ILCS 5/29D-14.1) does not get early release and must serve 100% of his sentence. See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(i).

A defendant serving a sentence for any of the following crimes must also serve 85% of his sentence:

  • Attempt terrorism. 720 ILCS 5/8-4 and 29D-14.1.
  • Attempt first degree murder 720 ILCS 5/8-4 and 9-1.
  • Solicitation of murder. 720 ILCS 5/8-1.
  • Solicitation of murder for hire. 720 ILCS 5/8-1.2.
  • Intentional homicide of an unborn child. 720 ILCS 5/9-1.2.
  • Predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. 720 ILCS 5/11-1.40.
  • Aggravated criminal sexual assault. 720 ILCS 5/11-1.30.
  • Criminal sexual assault. 720 ILCS 5/11-1.20.
  • Aggravated kidnapping. 720 ILCS 5/10-2.
  • Aggravated battery with a firearm. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), or (e)(4).
  • Heinous battery. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(a)(2).
  • Being an armed habitual criminal. 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7.
  • Aggravated battery to a senior citizen. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(a)(4).
  • Aggravated battery to a child. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(b)(1).

See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(ii).

Prisoners who are incarcerated on a sentence for any of these crimes must serve 85%, as well:

  • Home invasion.720 ILCS 5/19-6.
  • Armed robbery. 720 ILCS 5/18-2.
  • Aggravated vehicular hijacking. 720 ILCS 5/18-4.
  • Aggravated discharge of a firearm. 720 ILCS 5/24-1.2.
  • Armed violence with a category I weapon or category II weapon causing great bodily harm. 720 ILCS 5/33A-2.

See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(iii).

Under a newer provision of this truth-in-sentencing law, some offenses are now served at 75% of time:

  • Gunrunning. 720 ILCS 5/24-3A.
  • Narcotics racketeering. 725 ILCS 175/4.
  • Controlled substance trafficking. 720 ILCS 570/401.1.
  • Methamphetamine trafficking. 720 ILCS 646/56.
  • Drug-induced homicide. 720 ILCS 5/9-3.3.
  • Aggravated methamphetamine-related child endangerment. 720 ILCS 646/50(b).
  • Money laundering. 720 ILCS 5/29B-1(c)(4) or (c)(5).
  • Class X felony conviction for delivery of a controlled substance (within 1,000 feet). 720 ILCS 570/401.
  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver. 720 ILCS 570/401.
  • Calculated criminal drug conspiracy. 720 ILCS 570/405(b).
  • Criminal drug conspiracy. 720 ILCS 570/405.1.
  • Street gang criminal drug conspiracy. 720 ILCS 570/405.2.
  • Participation in methamphetamine manufacturing. 720 ILCS 646/15.
  • Aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing. 720 ILCS 646/15(b).
  • Delivery of methamphetamine. 720 ILCS 646/55.
  • Possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine. 720 ILCS 646/55.
  • Aggravated delivery of methamphetamine. 720 ILCS 646/55(b).
  • Aggravated possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine. 720 ILCS 646/55(b).
  • Methamphetamine conspiracy with a weight of 100 grams or more. 720 ILCS 646/65.

See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(v).

A second offense of luring a minor (720 ILCS 5/10-5.1) is served at 85%. See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(vi).

A sentence for aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3) is served at 85%. See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(vii).

A defendant sentenced to imprisonment for aggravated driving under the influence, 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(F), which involves death, or 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(C), which involves great bodily harm, must serve a sentence of 85% time. See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2.1) and (2.3) and (2.6).

A sentence of natural life shall be just that, natural life at 100% of time. See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2.2). Note that the death penalty was abolished, .

Finally, a the legislature added two weapons offenses to the list of crimes served at 85%:

  • Aggravated battery with a machine gun or a firearm equipped with a silencer.
  • Aggravated discharge of a machine gun or a firearm equipped with a silencer. 720 ILCS 5/24-1.2-5.

All other sentences are served at 50% of time. Sometimes inmates call this day-for-day, early release, or good-time credit. The statute itself calls the reduction ‘good conduct credit.’ It can be revoked by the Department of Corrections for misbehavior.

This is the state of the law at the time this article was written in 2013. The Illinois Criminal Code underwent some major revisions in 2012, so much so that the title was changed to the Criminal Code of 2012. It replaced the Criminal Code of 1961, its predecessor for over 50 years.

But the list of crimes that are served at 85% is sure to increase. Each year, lawmakers in Springfield will seek to add additional offenses to the list that are served at 85%.

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