A criminal record will negatively impact many aspects of your life, such as your educational and career aspirations, your family relationships, your housing situation, and any immigration benefits. At this sensitive time, you need all the help you can get.
If you are arrested for a crime in Illinois, it’s important to know your rights so you can avoid making mistakes that may inadvertently lead to a conviction. You have the following rights:
If you can’t afford a private attorney, Illinois law states that a Public Defender will be appointed to provide legal representation in the areas of criminal, misdemeanor, juvenile justice, child protection, paternity, appeals, post-conviction and traffic cases.
Unfortunately, the public defense systems may not be capable of providing the defense you deserve. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2007, about 73% of county public defender offices exceeded the maximum recommended limit of cases (150 felonies or 400 misdemeanors). Under pressure, public defenders may be quick to accept inadequate plea bargains and will not be able to devote the time and individual attention necessary to give you the best outcome possible and keep you out of jail.
Representing yourself in a criminal case is rarely a good idea. If you are even considering going pro se, look at the punishment you might face if convicted – the more severe the potential punishment, the more important it is that you are represented by counsel.
If you do represent yourself, be aware of the work involved. You will have to properly fill out forms and attend hearings, meet all deadlines, know the laws, understand legal terminology and follow the rules of the court. If you do go to trial, you will have to produce and examine witnesses and make opening and closing arguments in your defense. The consequences of making a mistake can ruin the rest of your life.
An experienced DuPage County criminal defense lawyer will know the laws, the courts, the prosecutors and the judges, and how to examine the individual facts of your case and determine the best way to launch your defense. A good attorney will take care of paperwork, file everything properly and on time, and be capable of negotiating with the prosecutor and getting you the best deal possible.
If your case does go to trial, a good attorney will find expert witnesses, and know how to present your case and how to advocate for your best interests in court. If your case doesn’t turn out in your favor, a good attorney will know how to file an appeal and get your sentence reduced. And a good criminal attorney should be someone you can relate to, who understands your situation and makes you feel relaxed and confident of achieving the best outcome of your case.
The prosecutor has the burden to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To do this, the prosecutor will gather evidence against you, including police reports, witness statements, videos or photos, physical evidence, or any other relevant information. Prosecutors may negotiate with your attorney to see if they can come to a plea-bargaining agreement without having to go to trial. Terms of the plea bargain will depend on the specific circumstances of the crime, your criminal history, and the strength of the prosecution’s evidence. If there is no agreement or the crime was particularly heinous and the evidence against you is strong, the prosecutor may decide to take the case to trial.
Your criminal defense attorney does not have to prove you are innocent, only that there is reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. To do this, the defense attorney will gather evidence and interview you and any witnesses.
There will be a standard discovery procedure, where your attorney can:
Based on the evidence, your DuPage criminal attorney may attempt to reach a plea-bargain agreement with the prosecutor or decide to take the case to trial. If the case goes to trial, you and your attorney can decide whether you want a bench trial in front of a judge or a jury trial. In either case, your attorney will have to come up with opening and closing arguments and present evidence to instill doubt that you committed the crime.
In Illinois, the following are the steps a criminal case will take as it progresses through the court system:
The discovery phase allows your attorney the opportunity to review the prosecution’s evidence against you. This could include police reports, witness statements, videos or photos, physical evidence, or any other relevant information. Discovery can unfold gradually, and your attorney might not receive all the evidence until shortly before trial.
During this phase, the defense attorney will begin locating and interviewing witnesses, developing a defense strategy, and securing evidence that may be presented at trial on your behalf.
At any point before a verdict, the defense attorney, defendant, and prosecution may enter into negotiations regarding a plea bargain. The terms of the plea bargain will vary greatly depending on the specific circumstances of the crime, criminal history, and the strength of the prosecution’s evidence.
If the case proceeds to trial, you can elect either a bench trial or a jury trial. The jury determines the outcome in a jury trial, whereas a judge makes the final decision regarding guilt or innocence in a bench trial. While both sides will present evidence at trial, it is the prosecution that bears the burden of proof. The state must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the prosecution and defense present their closing arguments, either the judge or jury will deliberate and then issue a verdict. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case is over. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will proceed to the sentencing phase.
The experienced and seasoned DuPage county criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know the courts and the criminal justice system and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take your case to trial. When we take on a criminal case, we gather information quickly and look at all viable defense options. Based on the facts, we make a decision about the best legal strategy.
According to the Illinois Criminal Code, crimes can be categorized as a misdemeanor or a felony, with felonies presenting the greatest threat to your life and liberty. Even an allegation of a felony offense can have a devastating effect on your reputation, livelihood and overall well being, and a conviction could lead to high fines and years of imprisonment.
Felony crimes fall into five categories, while misdemeanors are broken into three classes, depending on seriousness. A conviction on a felony charge usually carries a jail sentence of more than one year. For the most serious violent felonies, the sentences are significantly more, and many offenses have mandatory minimum jail sentences.
In Illinois, there are several classes of felonies, and the severity of the class depends on the circumstances of the crime. For example, when it comes to drug possession, punishment depends on the type and amount of the drug. A class 4 felony can be punished with imprisonment of 1-3 years and fines of up to $25,000. Examples of class 4 felonies in Illinois include Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and possession of between 30.1 – 500.0 gm of marijuana.
A class 1 felony can be punished with imprisonment of 4-15 years and fines of up to $25,000. Examples of class 1 felonies in Illinois include kidnapping, sexual assault and drug possession of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
People convicted of felonies are sentenced to state or federal prison, and certain felonies are punishable by death. If a felony crime goes to federal court, the fines and time in prison for a conviction increase drastically. For example, a class A felony can be punished with possible life imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000.
Misdemeanor criminal charges are those that have a maximum sentence of one year in jail or less, usually with no mandatory minimum jail time for most charges and can include fines of up to $2,500. Misdemeanor convictions will also affect your professional and personal life. If this is your second or greater offense, you are at increased risk for a jail sentence for many misdemeanor offenses in Illinois.
Misdemeanor charges include:
Our criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec have extensive experience handling complex criminal cases and are trusted and respected in the community.
We handle a broad range of cases throughout Illinois, including:
When you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find. Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, the law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and develop an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.
Don’t delay — contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges. Our DuPage County criminal defense lawyers represent clients in north central Illinois, and the Greater Chicagoland area. Your free initial consultation can be scheduled at our office.
If you are accused of a crime in Illinois, your life could be on the line. A conviction will mean a criminal record that will be with you forever and negatively impact your educational and career aspirations, your family relationships, your housing situation, and any immigration benefits.
Depending on the crime and your situation, you might face: