Summary of Illinois criminal process (landing page for subpages – appeals, probation, warrants, etc).
If you or a family member was arrested and charged with a crime in Chicago, it is understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Regardless of the nature of the offense, you may be uncertain about what to expect and likely have a myriad of questions about the criminal court process.
The criminal court process in Illinois can be complex and intimidating, which is why it is important to work with an experienced and skilled Chicago defense lawyer.
Having a knowledgeable and savvy defense lawyer by your side as early as possible can help you obtain the best outcome possible in your case. Below is a general overview of the process for a criminal case in Chicago:
- Law enforcement investigation – The criminal process usually commences with an investigation or traffic stop conducted by law enforcement (i.e. police). During the investigation, you might questioned by police or have your home or vehicle searched. The moment you become aware of the investigation, you should contact an experienced and skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney. Why? Because time is of the essence. The sooner you have representation, the better.
- Arrest – Law enforcement must have probable cause to place someone under arrest. Once an individual is taken into police custody, they must recite the Miranda warning to you, which includes your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.
- Bond or Bail Hearings – After it is determined that there are sufficient grounds to file charges, the accused will be given a hearing to set bail, which is referred to as bond court. During this stage of the process, a judge will determine whether someone is eligible for release and the bond amount as well as any other conditions of release.
- Preliminary Hearing vs. Grand Jury Hearing. For felony crimes, you must be formally charged with a crime through one of two proceedings: (i) a preliminary hearing or (ii) a grand jury hearing. In a preliminary hearing, the prosecution will present a summary of the evidence against you to a judge who will determine whether there is probable cause that you committed the offense for which they were charged. If the judge determines finds that there is sufficient evidence, you will be formally charged. On the other hand, with a grand jury hearing, a jury of sixteen people are tasked with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that you committed the crime alleged. If the grand jury determines that there is sufficient evidence, you will be formally charged.
- Arraignment. At an arraignment, the judge will inform you of the formal charges against you and the possible penalties, if convicted. At this point, you must enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
- Pre-trial Preparation – Pre-trial preparation includes “discovery.” This is the phase of the process that allows your Chicago defense attorney the chance to review the prosecution’s evidence against their client. This generally includes:
- Police reports;
- Witness statements;
- Videos or photos;
- Physical evidence; or
- Any other relevant information. During this phase, your Chicago criminal lawyer will begin locating and interviewing witnesses, developing a defense strategy, securing evidence that may be presented at trial on your behalf. The pre-trial phase also affords time to negotiate a potential plea agreement.
- Trial – If the case proceeds to trial, you usually get to elect whether you desire a bench trial or jury trial. The jury determines the outcome in a jury trial. On the other hand, a judge makes the final decision regarding guilty or innocence in a bench trial.
- Verdict. After the prosecution and defense present their closing arguments, either the judge or jury will deliberate and then issue a verdict. If you are found not guilty, the case is over. If you are found guilty, the case will proceed to sentencing.
- Appeals – If there were errors in the case that led to a conviction or unfair sentence, you have the right to appeal your case to an appellate court.