Articles Tagged with sentencing

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225Recently, it has been announced that there is a bill that will allow convicts in Illinois to be released at the 85% point of their sentence. The IDOC Releases 2017 has been long discussed by Congress and in legal circles. Some people will have less time in prison as a result of this change. Others might find that there are much stricter rules for getting released. The change follows a recommendation by the Commission on Criminal Sentencing. The new program is meant to reduce offending over the long term.

Just like any other laws, the people who are already in prison might be affected. Those who are going to commit crimes in the future will definitely be affected. These changes work together with all the other reforms that the government has been putting in place. An example is the gun law reviews, which affected those that are repeat offenders for gun crimes.

Things to Watch Out for if You are Convicted

3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200Knowledge of sentencing guidelines is not only important for those defendants who have been found guilty of a crime in Chicago, but it is also important for those who intend to enter a guilty plea or have a reasonable expectation of being found guilty. The guidelines act like a framework within which the court is expected to operate. They offer guidance to the judge as to the minimum and maximum sentences anticipated depending on the facts of the case. The range can be quite significant, and many offenses lie in the middle. It is for this reason that a sliding scale of punishment has been adopted.

Understanding the Difference Between Potential and Actual Punishments

Unlike some jurisdictions where sentencing is a technical and artificial exercise of matching index points to a punishment scale, Chicago, like the rest of the USA, demands a much more sophisticated approach. This includes weighing up the relative aspects of the aggravating and mitigating features. Two people who have been involved in an identical crime might get significantly different sentences under the guidelines. The public may perceive this to be unfair, but in reality, it is a reflection of the true nature of crime in which the differences are often more important than the similarities.

o_498v1-nbc-rachel-paprocki-300x201The 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,

27554520141_9b38f83133According to the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, approximately 77% of women who are currently incarcerated are victims of abuse. This figure is staggering and is part of the reason why this nonprofit helped to pass Illinois’ new domestic violence law, SB0209. SB0209 is important because it allows being a victim of domestic violence to be a mitigating factor at sentencing. A mitigating factor is any information presented to the court, generally about the defendant or the circumstances surrounding the crime, that has the potential to reduce the defendant’s sentence or the crime charged. Therefore, SB0209 was passed in order to enable courts in our state to reduce a defendant’s sentence if he or she was a victim of domestic violence.

Bill SB0209: History of Domestic Violence as a Mitigating Factor

According to  SB0209, if a defendant is or was a victim of domestic violence, and the domestic violence tended to excuse or justify his or her criminal conduct, then evidence of the abuse can be a mitigating factor at sentencing. In order to claim being a victim of domestic violence as a mitigating factor, the defendant must prove the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

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Bail is a monetary pledge (a bond) telling the court, that if the court will authorize your release, you promise to abide by any conditions the court demands, and to appear at all hearing dates going forward, including trial. By posting this bond, you are agreeing that should you fail to abide by any of the court’s conditions, your bail will be forfeited, and you will be returned to jail to await your trial. That is the premise under which the court will set bail, and if paid by you or by someone on your behalf, authorize your release from jail.

Can Your Right to Bail be Denied?

When accused of a crime, placed under arrest, and locked up in jail, what are your rights? Are you entitled to be released on bail? How much bail can the courts impose for your release?

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Probation

If you are sentenced to probation, you have been given a sentence with lesser jail time than usual because you may be a first time offender, and a probation time period is attached to the sentence which indicates that any violation of the probation will require you to serve out the full jail term. There may be no jail time to serve unless you violate the conditions of the probation (i.e., you have been sentenced to five years probation and you are released with the caveat that if you violate the terms of the probation, you will be remanded to custody to serve out a full five year jail term).

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