The Illinois Criminal Law Process

Specific criminal procedures vary by state, but the overall process is similar in all of them. Here are some things to know if you are arrested for a crime in Illinois.

Arrest Procedures

Police officers need a good reason to arrest you, such as having an arrest warrant in your name or seeing you commit a crime. After your arrest, the officer must inform you of your right to remain silent and your right to have a lawyer present during questioning. These are your Miranda rights.

The police will book you at the station. They will take your fingerprints and picture, and put your personal belongings into storage. You will then go to a holding cell.

Making Bail

Illinois law gives anyone arrested for a felony the right to a bond hearing, usually within 24 to 48 hours of arrest. Some misdemeanors have pre-set bond amounts, which you can pay at the police station. Either way, bail is supposed to be just high enough to ensure that you'll show up for your next scheduled court date. The court will decide if you must pay the full amount of your bond or 10 percent of the full amount. If you satisfy the conditions of your release, you'll get the money back when your case is over, minus a 10 percent fee.

The judge may release you on an “I-bond,” which means instead of paying money you sign a statement promising to come back to court. The court may also hold you without bond if it considers releasing you too risky. Unlike many states, Illinois does not allow private bail bondsmen.

Your Arraignment

The arraignment is where the judge reads the complaint against you and you enter your plea. A guilty plea means you admit to having committed the crime, and the next step is the sentencing. A not guilty plea means you do not admit the crime, and your case moves toward trial.

You may also "stand mute" which means you say nothing, and the court will enter a not guilty plea for you.

Plea Bargaining

Most criminal cases don't make it to trial. Instead, the defendant and prosecutor make a deal, called a plea bargain. In this deal, both sides give up something. For example, the prosecutor may agree to charge you with a lesser crime in exchange for your guilty plea to that crime.

Preliminary Hearings and Grand Juries

If you were arrested for a felony, state law requires either a grand jury indictment or a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to charge you. At a preliminary hearing, both sides can present evidence and witnesses, but only a prosecutor may present evidence to a grand jury.

Trial and Sentencing

If you go to trial, both sides will take turns presenting evidence and questioning witnesses. If the verdict is guilty, the judge will set your sentence after reviewing the guidelines in the state statutes as well as considering any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

Talk With a Criminal Lawyer

Criminal law is complicated, and only an Illinois criminal lawyer fully understands the details of the state's statutes. If you've been accused of a crime, request legal representation right away.

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