Clients who are involved with the criminal justice system in Illinois are understandably intimidated by the processes and rules. That initial panic is the main reason why so many defendants make a host of mistakes that come back to bite them later on as the case is disposed of. The first issue to consider is that of adequate legal representation. The state-appointed attorney should be a last resort if there are absolutely no alternatives save from self-representation.
In serious cases such as murder, rape, or assault the court insists on legal representation. If the client is unable to come up with representation, then an attorney or public defender will be appointed on their behalf. Unfortunately the quality of representation is not as high as would have been the case if you select your own attorney. In any case, it is important to understand the various stages of the criminal case processes so that you are not taken by surprise:
- Making a criminal complaint: A victim of crime will contact the law enforcement agencies to get help. This normally via the 9-1-1 call. Later on the victim may decide to press charges. In some cases the law enforcement agencies will press charges even where the victim refuses to engage with the process. This is because in Illinois (like the rest of USA) crimes can be committed against the state.
- The investigation: The law enforcement agencies will undertake an investigation including witness statements and then forward the results to the State Attorney for a decision as to whether to press charges. Plainclothes detectives tend to lead the investigation. The defendant will require legal representation in case they are called to give testimony. In cases where there is insufficient evidence for a criminal trial, the victim could pursue a civil case with a view to getting compensated.
- Preferring charges: Once the probable cause and public interest tests have been met by the investigation, an arrest warrant for the defendant may be issued. At this point the offences and charges are determined. Suspects (as represented by their attorneys) can still engage in a plea bargaining process or cause the charges to be downgraded. In the most serious cases, the charges can be elevated to a federal crime which carries much stiffer penalties.
- Bonding: After the suspect has been charged, they formally become a defendant. This status allows them to be released on bond, subject to the terms and conditions that are set by the court. In Illinois they tend to use the judicial rule which states that in misdemeanor cases which do not involve domestic violence; the ability to post bond may lead to release until the first court date. Defendants who are unable to post bond are remanded to the DuPage or Cook County jails. They then appear before a judge for a bond hearing within 48 hours. Here the judge will set a bail amount that is sufficient to protect the public and ensure court attendance.
- Pre-Trial and Trial: The court clerk sets the dates for arraignment which is no more than 30 days after the arrest. An assistant state attorney is assigned the case to prosecute. In cases of felonies the state attorney prepares a draft indictment that is presented to a Grand Jury consisting of 18 to consider the veracity of the charges and culpability. The same process can be undertaken via a preliminary hearing. Once again the defendant will require legal representation for purposes of fairness. Upon arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges and possible penalties. The attorneys on both sides then engage in a discovery phase which precedes the formal trial (bench or jury) and sentencing where appropriate.
For an experienced criminal lawyer who will give you the best chance of winning your case, call Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney David Freidberg at (312) 560-7100 today.
(image courtesy of Chris Yarzab)