If you are accused of a crime in Illinois, it is a frightening and serious situation since a conviction can negatively impact your life forever. At this sensitive time, you need all the help you can get.
The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law 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.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about criminal law in Illinois.
If you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court. You have a right to a jury trial, but you may waive this right and have a trial before a judge. You have the right to an attorney to represent your interests; and if you cannot afford one, you have the right to have an appointed public defender.
If you are arrested, it is important to stay calm and not to resist arrest. You do not have to answer questions or say anything, as the goal of police questioning is to turn up evidence that incriminates you, and your words can be used against you. You have a constitutional right to remain silent, known as Miranda rights, and the police must inform you of these rights if you are arrested. However, they are not required to do so if you are not under arrest and not in custody.
You should ask immediately to speak to an attorney before answering questions. A defense lawyer can advise you on your rights and be with you during questioning, and may be able to influence charges against you and keep you from being arrested.
In Illinois, felonies are crimes for which a person may be punished by more than one year in prison. Common felonies include:
Misdemeanor criminal charges are less serious and have a maximum sentence of one year in jail, usually with no mandatory minimum jail time for most charges, and can include fines of up to $2,500.
Misdemeanor charges include:
- Assault and battery
- Criminal trespass
- Cannabis possession
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving while your license is revoked or suspended.
Searches must be reasonable and, usually, supported by probable cause and/or a warrant. However, there are situations when the police don’t need a warrant, including:
- You gave police permission to search you, your car, or your home.
- You were stopped for questioning, and the police search you for weapons.
It is almost never in your best interests to give police permission to search; if they do so unlawfully, your lawyer may have the evidence excluded or get the charges dropped.
Most Illinois counties have a Public Defender’s Office. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford a private attorney, you are entitled to be defended by court-appointed counsel.
While public defenders must, by law, provide defendants with a competent legal defense, be aware that, in general, these attorneys are overworked and underpaid. You also do not have a choice of which defender will be appointed.
Private attorneys have more time to develop your case and offer more services. They have the opportunity to choose the cases that they take on and have more resources at their disposal to prepare your defense. Your life and future are at stake, and having the right counsel for your individual situation can make a tremendous difference.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor’s job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, the defense does not have to prove anything. Your attorney tests the prosecution’s evidence in order to create doubt.
In most arrest situations, you should initially plead “not guilty.” If you have made the mistake of pleading guilty, you need the help of a competent attorney to carefully look into the circumstances of your confession. If the police have made a mistake in obtaining your confession, it may be possible to have the confession thrown out. It may also be possible for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor and get your charges dropped or lowered to a less serious offense.
In Illinois, you can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if a test reveals your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be .08% or higher, or if your BAC is between .05% and .08% if there is other evidence that your driving is impaired.
An officer who has reason to believe you may be intoxicated can ask you to take a preliminary breath test or field sobriety test, where you may have to do things such as walk a straight line. You can refuse these tests, as they are often inaccurate, but doing so may be used against you.
If the officer asks you to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, and you refuse, your license will be suspended for 12 months, or three years if you have a previous DUI conviction. If you take the test and are found to be DUI, you can lose your license for 6 months for a first offense or one year for a subsequent offense.
If you are convicted of a crime in Illinois, penalties depend on factors that include what the crime is, the severity of the charges, the property damage involved, whether anyone was injured, and whether you already have a criminal record. Possible penalties may include:
- Incarceration in county jail or state prison
- Fines, penalty assessments and other costs
- Registration as a sex offender
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation
- Permanent criminal record
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)
- Required completion of classes and/or counseling
When you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find. The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with 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.
We are aggressive litigators and will work with you to answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case. We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.
Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call 630-305-0222 today to schedule your free initial consultation.