When a crime occurs or is suspected, an investigation of some type takes place through the proper law enforcement office. The investigation can result in an immediate arrest and detention of the alleged criminal offender right at the time of the incident or the law enforcement officer may simply prepare a report describing the activity without making any arrests, then submit the report to the entity with the power to issue the criminal charges at a later date. In Illinois, misdemeanor offenses must be charged within 12 months of the offense date while most felonies must be charged within 24 months of the offense. Some of the most serious felonies have no limitation as to when they can be charged.
The Issuance of Charges
Once a report is received, whether or not the offender is in police custody or not, the report generated from the incident gets reviewed and a decision is made as to whether or not charges should be issued. Police officers do not decide what criminal defendants get charged with, criminal prosecutors do. In Illinois, those prosecutors are called State's Attorneys. It is possible, for certain types of crimes, that different state agencies would make the charging decision. In some cases, the federal government may decide to issue charges and intervene before or after state charges are issued.
Every defendant has a right to know what they are being charged with and the range of punishment that they are facing. The defendant is told what he or she is charged with and the range of punishment they are facing at the arraignment hearing. At that hearing, the Defendant is given an opportunity to plead guilt or not guilty; this is considered a mere formality because in nearly every single case, the Defendant pleads not guilty and is given a trial date. Usually, the arraignment occurs at the first court appearance following an arrest or notice to appear.
Probable Cause: Preliminary Hearing vs. Grand Jury
Generally, following the arraignment, a defendant would be given the right to have the probable cause as to whether he or she had been properly accused be examined. Probable cause can be determined through either a Preliminary Hearing or a Grand Jury.In either scenario, witnesses are called to testify as to the general reasons that a report was generated and charges were issued. In the case of a preliminary hearing, this is done in front of a judge with the defendant present and able to ask questions of the witnesses. In the case of the grand jury, generally, the defendant is not present and a jury of the residents of the county where the charges were issued hears evidence in a non-public setting.Either the judge or grand jury determines if probable cause exists, then the case moves forward to trial (or plea) and if needed appeals. It is extremely rare for a criminal defendant to have charges dropped against him or her dropped for a lack of probable caus
Trial or Plea
Once the probable cause determination is made, the Defendant is placed on the trial docket and in most instances has to appear on a monthly basis in court until the trial date is set. During that time, the Defendant is generally entitled to see the evidence of the case. It is during this time period that the criminal defense attorney begins negotiations with the prosecuting agency to explore whether or not a plea agreement is possible.The terms offered under a plea agreement depend heavily on the circumstances of the alleged crime and the criminal history of the Defendant.If a plea cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial by jury or a bench trial. In a jury trial, 12 jurors must reach a unanimous verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a guilty verdict to be entered. In a bench trial, a judge makes that determination. The Defendant has a right to a trial by jury, but can waive jury trial and choose a bench trial if they desire it.
After a trial or a plea, a Defendant may appeal his sentence or finding of guilt. The appellate process is governed by strict guidelines limiting the time frame within which certain papers must be filed with the courts. These time lines are generally strictly enforced. If a deadline is not met, appellate rights was waived.Appeals will only be successful under certain legal scenarios, while one can handle an appeal without a lawyer, that road would be extremely difficult to navigate without an expert.
Do I need a lawyer?
When you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find; there are really no exception to the rule that hiring a qualified criminal defense counsel in Illinois is always a good idea. Your criminal defense attorney will review any evidence in your case and provide you with advice on whether to plead guilty or to take the criminal case to trial and fight the charges. In central Illinois, Steve Amjad is experienced enough to know the likely result in a criminal trial if you take your case to a jury. He will fairly assess your case, listen to you about the evidence you have, and advise you whether to take the deal or roll the dice with a jury trial. Don't take his word for it, read what Steve's former clients have said on his Avvo.com profile. Feel free to reach out to Steve Amjad now about your case in central Illinois; call him at 217-819 HELP(4357) or fill out a contact form on his Avvo.com profile.
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