Having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can have lifelong consequences. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime you are already experiencing the criminal process. The better informed you are about the misdemeanor criminal process, the better prepared you will be to fight your case and get the best outcome for your case. Below is a breakdown of themisdemeanor criminal process so that you and your team are prepared for what’s to come.
ARREST & BOND
Once you are arrested and charged for a misdemeanor you will be taken to the police station of the city or town in which you were arrested. You can expect to be fingerprinted, photographed and provide general information about yourself such as home address, birth date, and occupation. You should be given a copy of your complaint which tells you what you are being charged with.
You will also have a bond set so that if you can afford to pay, you will be released. Bonds are set either by the police station in which you were booked or you may be taken before a judge for a bond hearing. This is the first point in the criminal process where it is important to have a criminal defense attorney present. A criminal defense attorney will have a better chance of securing a low dollar amount bond (this is called a D-bond) for you or possibly getting you released without posting any money and just your signature (this is called an I-bond). This bond ensures that you will return to court for your court date.
FIRST COURT DATE
At your first court date, the judge will ask you whether you plan on hiring a criminal defense attorney or not. If you cannot afford an attorney you will be given the services of the Public Defender. In order to qualify for the Public Defender, you must provide a detailed affidavit or your assets and liabilities. While the Public Defender’s office has many capable attorneys, their caseload will not allow them to give you the time and attention you may need to resolve your case in the quickest and most advantageous way. If you decide you want to hire a criminal defense attorney, the judge will grant you a continuance to hire one.
NEXT COURT DATE
When you return to court with your criminal defense attorney, the Prosecutor is required to turn over to you and your attorney all evidence that has been collected against you. Most often, this is the point at which your lawyer will speak to the prosecutor to start negotiating a resolution to your case either through dismissal, deferred prosecution or an offer. Most often, your case will be continued so that you and your lawyer can review the evidence against you and determine what the best way to proceed is.
Sometimes, a case can be won by fighting to get evidence thrown out. If the police gathered evidence against you in an illegal way, all the evidence that is gathered after the illegal search or seizure is inadmissible. If this evidence is suppressed, oftentimes, the prosecutor will not be able to prove their case agaisnt you and will be forced to throw the case out.
If you, your lawyer and the prosecutor cannot come to an agreement about your case, your next option is to have a trial either by judge or jury. A trial consists of jury selection, opening statements, the examination of all witnesses against you, an opportunity for you to tell your side what happened, closing arguments and finally a finding or verdict decided by judge or jury.
If you are found guilty, a sentencing hearing will be conducted after the entry of a plea or verdict. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor in Illinois state is 364 days in jail and a $2500.00 fine. This is the point where your lawyer will request that your sentence be as low as possible based on your criminal history, the nature of the case, your background, and other factors such as your family, employment and service to the community.
If you have been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime, your reputation and liberty are at stake. You should have the best representation possible to protect you. Purav Bhatt is a former Cook County State’s Attorney who practices criminal defense in Chicago, Cook, Lake and Dupage counties.