Excessive Sentencing Project - Illinois

Policies and rulings on lengthy imprisonment terms in Illinois.

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  • As of 2011, Illinois has abolished the death penalty. 
  • Illinois abolished discretionary parole in 1978. 
  • Illinois allows for mandatory LWOP and JLWOP. See 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-8-1. 
  • Juveniles may be transferred to adult court as young as age 13. See Illinois Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/5-130 (2012). The automatic transfer provision of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act does not violate the proportionalities clause of the Illinois Constitution. This provision is procedural, and imposes no punishment on the defendant. People v. Jackson, 965 N.E.2d 623, 630 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2012).
State Constitution

Illinois Const., Art. I, § 11 (2012)

Section 11. Limitation of Penalties After Conviction -- All penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship. No conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate. No person shall be transported out of the State for an offense committed within the State.

NOTE:  Article I, Section 11 of the Illinois Constitution is broader than the Eighth Amendment because it explicitly recognizes the need for proportionality and promotes rehabilitation over other goals of punishment.

Sentencing Statutes
  1. Sentencing Guidelines System – Illinois does not have a guidelines system
  2. Habitual Offender Statute –
    • § 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95 (2012):  General Recidivism Provisions

      Sec. 5-4.5-95. General Recidivism Provisions. (a) HABITUAL CRIMINALS.
       
    • § 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7 (2012): Armed habitual criminal

      Sec. 24-1.7. Armed habitual criminal. (a) A person commits the offense of being an armed habitual criminal if he or she receives, sells, possesses, or transfers any firearm after having been convicted a total of 2 or more times of any combination of the following offenses:

      (1) a forcible felony as defined in Section 2-8 of this Code [720 ILCS 5/2-8];

      (2) unlawful use of a weapon by a felon; aggravated unlawful use of a weapon; aggravated discharge of a firearm; vehicular hijacking; aggravated vehicular hijacking; aggravated battery of a child as described in Section 12-4.3 or subdivision (b)(1) of Section 12-3.05 [720 ILCS 5/12-4.3 or 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05]; intimidation; aggravated intimidation; gunrunning; home invasion; or aggravated battery with a firearm as described in Section 12-4.2 [720 ILCS 5/12-4.2 (now repealed)] or subdivision (e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), or (e)(4) of Section 12-3.05; or

      (3) any violation of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act [720 ILCS 570/100 et seq.] or the Cannabis Control Act [720 ILCS 550/1 et seq.] that is punishable as a Class 3 felony or higher.

      (b) Sentence. Being an armed habitual criminal is a Class X felony.
Case Law

General  

A challenge to the constitutionality of a statute can be raised at anytime, even if the defendant failed to raise the issue at sentencing or in a motion to reconsider. People v. Hindson, 301 Ill. App. 3d 466, 479-480 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1998).

The Illinois Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the legislature has discretion to define crimes and determine their penalties. Nevertheless, statutes may not prescribe penalties that violate constitutional constrictions. People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328 (Ill. 2002).

“A reviewing court may not alter a defendant's sentence absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court.”  People v. Alexander, 239 Ill. 2d 205, 212 (Ill. 2010); People v. Pettis, 2011 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2499, 14-15 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2011); seePeople v. Hindson, 301 Ill. App. 3d 466, 477-479 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1998); People v. Krankel, 131 Ill. App. 3d 887, 897 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dist. 1985).

State Constitution & Proportionality 

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Rehabilitation is an important state policy. Unlike the Eighth Amendment, the proportionalities clause of the Illinois Constitution clearly “provides for punishment to be proportionate to the seriousness of an offense with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship.” People v. Boyce, 228 Ill. App. 3d 87, 92 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1992); seePeople v. Harlow, 246 Ill. App. 3d 196, 199 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dist. 1993).

The Eighth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Illinois Constitution are not identical. The Illinois Constitution focuses on rehabilitation, and goes beyond the Eighth Amendment. People v. Clemons, 968 N.E.2d 1046, 1057 (Ill. 2012). Article I, Section 11 places two limitations on sentences: (1) penalties must be determined “according to the seriousness of the offense,” and (2) penalties must be determined “with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship.”Id. at 1055-56.

Illinois  courts are hesitant to disturb sentence that falls within the statutory limits unless that sentence is a great variance with “the purpose and spirit of the law,” or is “manifestly disproportionate to the nature of the offense.”People v. Alexander, 239 Ill. 2d 205, 212 (Ill. 2010) (quoting People v. Stacey, 193 Ill. 2d 203, 210, 737 N.E.2d 626, 250 Ill. Dec. 4 (2000)); People v. Pettis, 2011 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2499, 14-15 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2011); seePeople v. Sprinkle, 56 Ill. 2d 257 (Ill. 1974); People v. Michels, 72 Ill. App. 3d 182 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 1979).

Under Article I, Section 11 of the Illinois Constitution, a sentence is disproportionate in three circumstances: (1) where the punishment for the offense is “cruel, degrading, or so completely disproportionate to the offense for which it is imposed as to shock the moral sense of the community; (2) where, after the punishment for the offense is compared to the punishments for other offenses in Illinois, the court finds the offense to be less severe and more harshly punished than the other offenses; and (3) where the penalties for identical offenses differ. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d 481, 487 (Ill. 2005); People v. Pizano, 347 Ill. App. 3d 128, 132 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2004).

Comparison of defendants in different cases is only appropriate when the circumstances of the defendants are “substantially identical.” People v. Hindson, 301 Ill. App. 3d 466, 479-480 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1998).

To determine whether a proportionality comparison between two offenses is appropriate, an appellate court should consider the following two factors: (1) whether the offenses share a common statutory purpose; (2) whether the offense with the harsher penalty is less severe than the offense with the less severe penalty. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d 481, 488 (Ill. 2005);People v. Austin, 349 Ill. App. 3d 766, 772 (Ill. App. Ct. 2004).

The sentencing court is not required to articulate the process by which it concluded that the penalty imposed was appropriate, nor is it required to articulate its consideration of mitigating factors. People v. Jarrell, 248 Ill. App. 3d 1043, 1051 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1993).

Statutes which establish mandatory minimums are an appropriate exercise of legislative power, even though such minimums reduce the discretion of the judiciary in sentencing. SeePeople v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d 481, 525 (Ill. 2005). Mandatory minimums are not per se unconstitutional under Article I, Section11. People v. Gomez, 120 Ill. App. 3d 545 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 1983).

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The Illinois Supreme Court has held that a multiple-murder statute which imposed mandatory life imprisonment without parole on juveniles violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. The statute was unconstitutional as applied to the 15-year old offender who was less culpable than the other participants in the homicides. Mandatory life imprisonment without the chance of parole may still be an appropriate sentence for a juvenile offender who actively participated in the death of two or more people. People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328, 341-343 (Ill. 2002).

A sentencing court is not obligated to impose identical sentences for each count of a crime.
People v. Hindson, 301 Ill. App. 3d 466, 479-480 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1998). Consecutive sentencing does not per se violate the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. SeegenerallyPeople v. Conley, 306 Ill. App. 3d 1 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1999).

 While the following cases mention both Article I, Section 11 of the Illinois Constitution and the Eighth Amendment, they provide no significant, separate analysis of Section 11:

  • People v. Adams, 198 Ill. App. 3d 74, 83 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1990) –
  • People v. Brooks, 141 Ill. App. 3d 889, 890 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1986) –
  • People v. Lenhart, 90 Ill. App. 3d 502, 504 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 1980) –

Leading Court Discussions of Graham and Miller  

People v. Davis, 2014 IL 115595 (May 20, 2014) (Miller applies retroactively; statute that does not allow consideration of age is not facially unconstitutional under Miller because it can be applied to adults and it does not prohibit this consideration; Graham does not categorically bar LWOP) 

Severe Sentences 

  • People v. Arrieta, 2011 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2201 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 2011) – The court refused to extend Roper, Graham, and People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328 (Ill. 2002)], when it refused to “find mandatory life sentences unconstitutional as applied to actively participating-multiple-murdering defendants under the age of 18.”