Illinois Felony Process


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When a criminal defendant is going through the criminal process, he or she may be very confused. The following information provides an overview of the felony process in Illinois.

Types of Crimes in Illinois

The following overview is regarding the general felony process in Illinois. Other types of crimes may follow a different procedure. There are three types of crimes in Illinois. The lowest level of crime is called a petty offense. The next level is a misdemeanor. The most serious type of offense is a felony.

The difference between these types of crimes is the maximum allowable sentence. A petty offense is usually punished by ordering the defendant to pay a fine. A misdemeanor conviction can result in imprisonment up to 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine, depending on the Class of the offense. Felony convictions can result in imprisonment of over one year. While all felonies are serious, they may vary in severity and possible punishment. However, all of them follow this process:

Arrest

After an arrest, the police call the Felony Review Office of the State’s Attorney. The State’s Attorney is responsible for deciding whether or not a felony should be charged. The individual who is assigned the case in the Field Review Office may discuss the circumstances involved in the case with the arresting officer. He or she may also interview the defendant. After this review, he or she decides if felony charges should be brought. If he or she finds the evidence to be insufficient, the felony charges are rejected. The police can still charge the defendant with a misdemeanor if this occurs.

If he or she decides that felony charges are proper, the charges are filed and sent to the court. Police process the defendant. The charges are specified in what is referred to as an “information.”

Bond Hearing

With 72 hours of being arrested, the defendant attends a bond hearing in front of judge. Here, the judge hears facts surrounding the case and the defendant’s criminal history. The criminal defense attorney representing the defendant may discuss factors related to the defendant’s life that demonstrate that he is not a safety or flight risk, including information about his family and job.

The judge determines whether to grant bond and in what amount. In some cases, the defendant is released on personal recognizance, which means he or she does not have to pay bond. If he or she is ordered to pay bond, the defendant must post the ordered amount with the court before he or she is released. The judge may also impose additional conditions on the defendant’s release. This may include surrendering weapons, not leaving the jurisdiction or not contacting the victim.

Preliminary Hearing

The next stage in the process is the preliminary hearing. This may not occur in all counties. During a preliminary hearing, the judge hears evidence on whether there is sufficient evidence that someone committed a crime and whether there is reason to believe that the defendant committed the crime. The prosecutor may present witnesses and may solicit their testimony. The criminal defense attorney cross-examines the witnesses. At this stage, the prosecution does not have to prove these elements by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the judge decides that probable cause does not exist for the charges, the case is usually dismissed.

Indictment

As an alternative to a preliminary hearing, some counties proceed by presenting evidence to a grand jury. The jury pool consists of 18 people from the community. An indictment is different because the criminal defense attorney does not have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. In this situation, the grand jury applies the same elements as a judge during a preliminary hearing. If the jurors believe a crime was committed and the defendant likely committed it, the indictment is issued.

Under either of these two scenarios, the case is sent to the county’s chief judge who then assigns the case to another judge.

Arraignment

An arraignment is the next step in the process and is the official time when a criminal defendant is told of the official charges. The official charging document is given to the defendant. The defendant formally enters his or her plea.
Discovery

The criminal defense attorney receives information from the prosecution and police during the discovery process. This includes any evidence that may show the defendant is not guilty. Often after receiving this information, the criminal defense attorney may file motions in order to quash the arrest or suppress testimony or evidence based on relevant laws and information included in the evidence files. The outcome of these motions can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case with some motions resulting in a dismissal of charges.

Resolution

The criminal defense attorney may negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. Alternatively, he or she may recommend going to trial. The defendant ultimately determines how he or she wants to proceed with the case after taking his or her attorney’s advice into consideration.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.



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