Minor violations are generally considered petty offenses. These types of violations are frequently punished with a fine.
The next level is misdemeanors. In Illinois, these crimes can carry as few as 30 days in jail or as many as 364 days. Additionally, fines can range from $1,500 to $2,500.
The most serious category is a felony which can carry a sentence of up to 60 years. While the penalties vary, the process for all felony charges is essentially the same.
After an Arrest
The police officers that were involved in an arrest must communicate with the State’s Attorney Felony Review office. Police cannot independently charge someone with a felony. The decision to charge someone with a felony rest with the State’s Attorney who gathers information from the officer. The defendant’s criminal history is reviewed, and the defendant may be interviewed in an effort to decide if felony charges are appropriate.
The State’s Attorney may reject the charges if there is insufficient evidence or if the circumstances are inappropriate for a felony charge. If the State’s Attorney accepts the charges, the police will process the defendant and the defendant will be held for a bond hearing. If the felony charges are rejected, police can still file misdemeanor charges which they do have full authority over.
Within 72 hours of an arrest, a bond hearing is generally held. The bond court judge is presented with basic facts and charges for the case, as well as the defendant’s criminal history. The defendant’s attorney will make a presentation on behalf of the defendant. After both sides have presented, the judge will decide about the terms of release.
The next step in the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois is a preliminary hearing. A judge will be presented with evidence to determine that a felony crime was committed and to determine if there is reason to believe the defendant was responsible for committing it.
The state will present witnesses and the defense can ask these witnesses questions as well. The standard for a preliminary hearing is much lower than at the trial. At this point, a judge is simply determining that there is a likelihood that the defendant committed the crime. If the judge determines that there is no probable cause, the defendant wins the hearing, and the case is generally dismissed.
Many cases are presented to a grand jury instead of having a preliminary hearing. The state can charge a person with a felony by presenting evidence to a grand jury. A grand jury is composed of 18 people from the community. The proceedings are conducted in secret and the defense cannot cross-examine the witnesses. Most felony cases go through a grand jury process. The grand jury is responsible for determining the same issues as a judge at a preliminary hearing.
If the grand jury believes a crime was likely committed by the defendant, an indictment will be issued which is the official document accusing a person of a crime. With an indictment, a warrant will be issued if the defendant is not already in custody. The State’s attorney can bring cases to the grand jury even if the charges were originally dropped at the preliminary hearing.
Following the indictment or preliminary hearing, the case goes to the county’s Chief Judge. The Chief Judge is responsible for assigning the case to another judge in the county using a prescribed random process.
After assignment to a specific trial court, the defendant is formally arraigned. This is where the charges can be formally read. This is often waived to save time. The defendant’s lawyers already know what the felony charges are. More importantly, at an arraignment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is formally entered.
During this part of the process, the state is responsible for sharing all evidence. The state is required to share specific types of evidence in its possession with the defense, particularly any evidence that has major implications of guilt or innocence for the defendant.
Motions are requests for something specific to be done. For example, the defense can submit a motion to quash arrest, motion to suppress a statement, or motion to suppress evidence to the judge during the pre-trial process. The decision of the judge on these motions can have a very large impact on the outcome of a trial.
If the State’s attorney, the defense attorney, and the defendant agree on a penalty, a plea agreement will avoid a trial and it is often the way that many cases conclude. In the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois, the judge also participates in the plea agreement if the defendant agrees in open court. The defendant must agree to it because the judge will often learn things that would not be known otherwise to the judge. If a plea is agreed to without the judge, the judge can impose a different penalty than the one agreed to by the defense and the state.
If the case is not settled, it will continue to either a jury trial or bench trial (which is a trial by a judge). The defendant will be found guilty or not guilty of their felony crime and based on the results, the judge will impose the penalty.
The criminal law process for a felony in Illinois can be complicated. If you need a defense attorney with experience, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet. Our attorneys can help you through each step and use their experience to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.