What to Expect in Your Criminal Case in Illinois
After you’ve been arrested, you may be overwhelmed and confused about what to expect, and what steps to take next. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of how you can expect a criminal case against you to proceed in a Cook County court, such as the Markham Courthouse or Bridgeview Courthouse. First and foremost, make sure that you reach out for legal help after an arrest, to ensure that your rights are protected at every stage of the process. John Fairman has been advocating for the rights of those facing criminal allegations in Illinois for decades, and he will help to ensure that you receive a full and fair defense against any charges you face.
The first step in any criminal case is an arrest. Normally, you will be notified that you are being placed under arrest. However, anytime you are speaking with a police officer and are not free to leave, you are considered to be in police custody and thus under arrest. After you have been issued a Miranda warning, aside from providing identifying information, you should not answer any additional questions until you have consulted with an attorney. Remain calm, and ask to speak with your lawyer.
Hearing to Set Bail
After charges have been filed against you for the crime with which you’ve been arrested, you will receive a hearing to set bail, also known as bond court. During this hearing, the judge will determine whether or not you are eligible to be released on bail, and the amount at which bail should be set. Your attorney can present an argument as to why you should be deemed eligible for release, and reasons why your bail should not be set high. Hearings to set bail at the Bridgeview Courthouse or Markham Courthouse occur Monday through Friday. If your hearing will occur on a weekend or court holiday, then it will be held at the Central Bond Court in Chicago.
Preliminary and Grand Jury Hearing
It is at this point where either a judge or jury will hear a summary of the state’s evidence against you and determine whether a crime occurred and whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute you for that crime. The prosecutor assigned to your case will decide whether to have your case presented to a judge at a preliminary hearing, or have it presented to a panel of jurors at a grand jury hearing. Preliminary hearings are public and may involve testimony from the arresting officer and additional witnesses regarding your participation in the crime. Your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine these witnesses and argue that you should not be charged with the crime. If the judge believes that there is sufficient supporting evidence, then you will be formally charged by “information.” If the prosecutor elects to use a grand jury, the hearing will be held privately, and you will be unable to attend. If the jury finds that there is sufficient evidence supporting the charges, you will be formally charged via an indictment. In both cases, if there is insufficient evidence to support the claims, they will be dismissed.
At your arraignment, you will be formally charged with the crime and notified of both the minimum and maximum penalty for the charges, should you be found guilty. You will also be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty. Your attorney can advise you on how to plead, but a not guilty plea will allow your lawyer the time and opportunity to examine any evidence the prosecutor may have against you during the discovery phase, and whether or not it would be strong enough to result in a conviction at trial, as well as to negotiate for possible reduced charges with the prosecutor. If you plead guilty, you will move forward to the sentencing phase, but if not, you will continue on towards trial.
Trial preparation and trial
During this phase, your attorney will look for witnesses who will testify at trial on your behalf, as well as other evidence that supports your innocence. It is during this phase that your lawyer will have a chance to determine the strength of the prosecution’s evidence against you, as well. Negotiations regarding a possible plea bargain will typically be ongoing during this time.
Should your case continue toward trial, you and your attorney will discuss whether to request a bench trial or jury trial. A bench trial is heard only by the judge, who will make the final decision on whether you are guilty or not guilty. A jury trial will be heard by 12 jurors, selected in concert by your attorney and the prosecutor, in a trial overseen by the judge.
During the trial, the prosecutor will present a case, supported by physical evidence, witness and expert testimony, and possibly recreations or models of the events occurring during the crime. Your attorney will likewise have an opportunity to subject any prosecution witnesses to questioning, known as cross-examination, to point out any flaws in the witness’ reasoning or retelling of events, or any other reasons the witness is unreliable. Your attorney will then have a chance to present evidence and testimony which proves your innocence. You may or may not elect to testify in your own defense, and can decide whether or not this is in your best interests by discussing the pros and cons with your lawyer. Criminal trials can range in length from a couple of days to several weeks, depending on the nature of the charges against you and how much evidence each side wishes to present.
Either the judge or jury will take time to deliberate on whether or not you are guilty, and issue its verdict. If you are found guilty, the judge will schedule a pre-sentence investigation report. You will meet with a probation officer, who will gather information about you, and possibly ask to speak with your loved ones, as well. The report will inform the probation officer’s recommendation for a sentence, which the judge can choose whether or not to follow.
At the sentencing hearing, you will learn what sentence the judge has chosen for you to receive based on the pre-sentence investigation report, the charges of which you were convicted, and the prosecution and defense lawyers’ recommendations.
If you and your attorney believe that the result is incorrect or that your arrest or trial were in some way unfair or illegal, you may appeal your conviction. If your appeal is successful, then the appellate panel may reverse the trial court’s guilty finding, send the case back to the trial court to be re-heard, or keep the trial court’s decision in place.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation throughout the Illinois Arrest Process in Chicago and Cook County
Make sure that you receive an aggressive, dedicated, and thorough defense against any criminal charges before the Bridgeview or Markham Court. Contact Homewood criminal defense attorney John Fairman for a consultation on felony or misdemeanor charges of assault, drug possession, burglary, DUI, or other crimes, at 708-799-4848.