What is Criminal Defense?
If you're facing charges, you need a skilled Illinois criminal defense attorney.
The criminal justice system in the United States is extremely complex and can be very difficult to navigate. If you have been accused of a crime, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to get your case going in the right direction.
As a defendant, you have certain rights and protections under the law, including due process. This guarantees that through the entire criminal justice process, strict procedures must be followed so that you are not denied any of your rights. If you're facing charges that, if convicted, may result in serious consequences like imprisonment or large fines, you have the right to fair hearings and protections under due process.
The Process of a Criminal Case
When a crime is committed, it is up to law enforcement to investigate the case, gather evidence from the scene and speak to any witnesses that were present. If they find a suspect through this investigation process, they will secure an arrest warrant from a judge.
If you are arrested and charged, you must have bail set by a judge. This is an amount of money that you must pay to be released from jail. If you show up for future court dates, you will eventually get that money back. Those who fail to show up forfeit their bail money forever and the court will then issue an arrest warrant. If a judge declines you bail, you must remain in custody until the trial.
Your next step would be to go before a judge at an arraignment, where you'll be informed of your charges, asked if you have an attorney or would like one appointed to you, asked how you will plead and given your future court dates.
If you're facing felony charges, you'll then have to attend a preliminary hearing, where the prosecution must demonstrate that there is enough evidence against you to further proceed. During this hearing, criminal defense lawyers are able to cross-examine the witnesses provided by the prosecution.
In order to have your charges reduced or dropped or avoid a trial, you may choose to plea bargain with the prosecution. This essentially means that you plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a reduced charge, the dropping of some charges or the recommendation from the prosecution to the judge to reduce your sentence.
To get the best results from a plea-bargaining situation, you need a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer.
If your case goes to trial, attorneys from both sides will give opening and closing statements, present witness testimony, and provide evidence. A guilty verdict will mean that you'll be sentenced, which may happen right away or through a separate process. For more serious cases, the prosecution and defense will present arguments for sentencing by presenting facts, much like what happens during the actual trial.
Before sentencing, defendants have the right to address the judge to apologize, show remorse or explain their actions. These remarks may play a role in determining the severity of the sentence issued.