Frequently Asked Questions
Should I settle for a public defender?
Public defenders are a part of the legal system. Having said that, they don’t always do a good job. Public defenders work for the state. There is always a question of how willing they are to go the distance to protect you. Public defenders work in one specific court, and develop a relationship with local court officials. They care about their relationship more than they care about you. You should never accept a public defender if there are other legal options.
If you are facing charges, you should consult a Chicago criminal lawyer, who can do a professional job analyzing your case. We are overall with the Chicago court system, and we are very aggressive. We understand how to craft a strong legal defense, and have a proven track record of success when it comes to helping clients.
Our Chicago criminal lawyers believe each and every person deserves the best possible legal representation. In order to help, we provide payment options, before signing any legal documentation. We understand financial obligations can hinder your ability to pay. In order to help, we can provide an affordable rate, with a payment plan, in order to help balance your finances.
Being convicted of a crime, even if it’s a misdemeanor, could result in fines and penalties such as: jail time, loss of license, probation, community service, hefty fines, and others. When you hire a Chicago criminal attorney to represent you in court, you have the best possible chance of avoiding these penalties. Having a conviction on your record could permanently ruin your chances of employment, and other opportunities.
Our Chicago criminal lawyers have extensive experience dealing with Prosecutors. We can help you understand what the prosecution will do, and what they might present in court against you. We can guide you and help you understand the potential outcomes of the charges and accusations you face. It’s the goal of the Prosecutor to convict you with highest possible sentence, regardless of whether you’re innocent. He, or she, will manipulate your words and actions against you. We can help you understand how, and build a tactical defense.
We believe you have the right to the best possible legal counsel if charged with a crime in Chicago. Our law firm works diligently to defend the rights of our clients, no matter what they are accused of doing. Whether it’s a DUI, drug possession, theft, or some other criminal offense, we believe you have the right to a fair trial, with professional counsel. Our job as criminal attorneys is to not only get you the best outcome, but to protect your legal rights from overzealous prosecutors.
A DUI is a serious charge that many people will get at some point in their lives. DUI stands for driving under the influence, and refers to someone operating a motor vehicle under the influence of an outside agent. Generally, this refers to alcohol or drugs with the most common being alcohol. There are serious penalties for getting a DUI, and it must be taken seriously by the person charged with the crime. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident a person may or may not go to jail. There are several variables that an attorney will have to consider before advising a client on their potential legal status.
In the United States, one of the best indicators of how harsh a punishment will be is the past record of the accused. If someone has a long criminal record they are likely to face a more still penalty as a first time offender. For those accused of a DUI, the driving record is one of the best places to look. If someone has a history of bad driving or DUI convictions, the penalty is going to be much more harsh. In many states, it is possible for someone to go to jail for having a DUI. However, for first time offenders it is quite rare that they will go to jail. If you are a first time offender with a clean driving record, the odds of you going to jail are very slim to none.
However, if you are someone that has multiple offenses on your driving record, the judge may look at your criminal history as well. If a person has a history of DUI arrests and other criminal charges, the odds that they will serve some jail time for their offenses starts to rise. There are many different reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that jail is supposed to help a person get out of their routine. If a driver has several DUI’s on their record, the judge may believe that thirty days in jail could transform their line of thinking. The more DUI’s a person has, the bigger their potential punishment will grow. In addition, if a person has any outstanding warrants or other crimes, that will also be taken in to consideration in the sentencing.
When convicted of a crime like a DUI, generally the trail will not go to a jury and will just go to a judge. A judge will have the authority to level out the punishment for the crime. Often times, if it is a first time offense and the person is a good member of the community, the judge will be very lenient. Community service is actually the most common form of punishment for a DUI, and if a person is a first time offender with no criminal background this is probably going to be their punishment. However, this is not the same story as someone with a long rap sheet, and they could face jail time.
What happens if someone is arrested?
Arrests are made after a police officer has either a warrant signed by a judge, or has witnessed a suspect commit a crime. Once arrested, the suspect is taken by the police officer to jail. There, the person is fingerprinted and photographed. The suspect is required to answer questions, and then is placed in a holding cell. Police have to give the suspect the chance to make phone calls within hours of the arrest. The suspect is allowed to contact a Chicago criminal lawyer, or friends/family members. The suspect is given a court hearing within 48 hours of being placed in custody. The person is allowed to meet with their Chicago criminal attorney before the hearing takes place.
Once the suspect is taken into the court room, the judge tells the suspect of the crime he/she is being charged with, and will ask for a plea. The suspect can tell the judge if they are guilty, not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, or if they plead no contest. Before the suspect enters a plea, he/she should speak to their Chicago criminal attorney.
Guilty plea’s are an admission of guilt, and the suspect will be held immediately responsible. With a plea of no contest, the suspect isn’t admitting guilty – but isn’t disputing the facts of the charges. If the suspect pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, then the suspect is placed under psychiatric supervision. If a plea of not guilty is placed, this forces a trial to occur and the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crime occurred.
The suspect is given a chance at this point between a bench trial or a jury trial. If the suspect chooses a jury trial, then he/she is tried before a group of peers. The peers determine guilt or innocence. If the suspect pick bench trial, then they will be tried in front of a judge.The suspect should consult with their Chicago criminal attorney in order to determine which is the best option. What happens next will depend on the outcome of the trial. If the suspect is found innocent, then he/she is allowed to be released. If the suspect is found guilty, or if the suspect plead guilty, or plead no contest, then a sentencing hearing is held. Before this takes place, a judge review’s the suspect’s past criminal activity to determine whether there’s a track record or this is a first time action. This is taken into consideration when deciding a verdict. At the hearing, the judge will want to hear an opinion of the suspect from the friends, family members, and the victim of the crime. The judge then declares a verdict based on sentencing requirements, and evidence. Depending on the severity of the crime, the sentence can involve jail, monetary fines, or community service.
Does it matter if my attorney is familiar with the courts?
Having an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with the courts can be beneficial for defendants in a number of ways. Rather than going with a Chicago criminal lawyer who will just go through the motions, an experienced trial lawyer has the edge in being able to anticipate certain situations and offer clients a more favorable outcome.
Here are a few of the reasons you want a DUI attorney familiar with the courts;
Knowledge of this Complicated Law
Depending on the severity of your DUI arrest, your attorney has been able to see from court experience what happens when a driver is just under or over the legal limit. While a recording over the legal limit certainly qualifies as a DUI, your attorney has seen judges and other lawyers plea bargain cases down a few points so that it becomes a reckless driving case. The reckless driving carries far less in the way of serious penalties, and could even result in the defendant being able to keep their driver’s license.
A DUI attorney who is familiar with the court has been able to see what circumstances it took to be in a position to get the charges lessened or dropped. If your case has similar circumstances, your attorney will draw on that experience and try to negotiate a deal that will rule more favorably in your case.
Professional Courtesy with Court Personnel
Unlike the lawyer who has not stepped foot in the courts, your Chicago criminal attorney has gained more than just experience seeing many of these cases play out. Each time that your attorney was in the court, they become more familiar with the judges, other lawyers, and the prosecutors. Trying these cases allows your attorney to see exactly how each of these individuals does their job. There could be some judges who tend to rule in favor of the defendants, while others with a more iron fist who need to be convinced to change their ruling.
The one advantage to having a DUI lawyer familiar with the courts is they tend to get a degree of professional courtesy from the rest of the courtroom personnel. Although this does not indicate favoritism, it does mean that these professionals have more respect for your attorney and that passes on to the defendant in these particular cases.
Knowledge of the DUI Recording Equipment
The complexities of DUI cases makes them some of the hardest to defend because the arresting officers have to many times make judgement calls. Although your attorney gets to see which testing was used to determine the level of sobriety in the driver, it helps to be able to see these cases and discover that sometimes the equipment was faulty. If the officer did not calibrate the device correctly, has little experience with a new device, or has a history of making mistakes, your attorney can draw on that experience to see if it applies in your case.
One of the advantages to being in the courts on a regular basis is that your attorney is seeing how other cases played out and what was effective when it comes to cross-examining the arresting officer. Your attorney will be seeing many of these officers in the court frequently, and if one officer happens to be involved with your case, it could allow your lawyer to use a successful strategy to weaken their case. Asking the officer why they choose one particular field test over another could reveal information that could allow the judge to dismiss this case.
Understanding the Needs of the Judge
There are only so many judges in this jurisdiction that are assigned to DUI cases. If you attorney is in the court all the time, they not only build a rapport with the judges, they start to understand what each judge needs as far as ruling more favorable. One judge might put heavy weight into the fact the driver has a spotless record before the incident, so your attorney can work that angle. Another judge might be a stickler for specifics, and whether the police or the lawyers, if the paperwork is not in order, they will rule accordingly.
Being in the court all the time allows your DUI attorney to see the unique personalities of each judge and discover what it takes to get them to hand down more favorable rulings for the defendants. When you know the judge presiding over the case has no sympathy for mistakes but does play everything by the numbers, your attorney knows they need to find issue with the DUI recording device and numbers instead of trying for a sympathy strategy.
Retaining a DUI lawyer who is familiar with the court puts you in a better position to get a favorable outcome and to avoid an unforeseen circumstances that could derail the case and make matters worse.
What rights do I have in a DUI case
Every criminal defendant has certain rights in the criminal justice system. Since a DUI is a criminal charge, a suspect or defendant will have the same rights as any other accused person. Yet, when and how these rights apply will depend on the unique circumstances of the case.
A DUI Charge Can be a Misdemeanor
There is no need to distinguish a misdemeanor from a DUI case. This is due to the fact that a DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor. First and second time DUI offenders are likely to be charged at the misdemeanor level. If convicted, a misdemeanor defendant can be fined thousands of dollars and be sentenced to one year of jail time.
Rights of Criminal Defendants
The 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent
Every criminal defendant shares the right to not bear witness against him or herself. The Fifth Amendment allows defendants to remain silent about the crime they are accused of. Thus, the state can not compel a defendant to give information about a crime or to testify in a trial.
Defendants have the right to a trial in an open, public forum. This right allows the family and supporters of the defendant to view the trial process. In most cases, anyone off the street is allowed to sit-in on the trial. The purpose of this right is to provide accountability to the public.
This right may not apply under special circumstances. Judges can close a courtroom to preserve order and safety. This usually happens during high profile trials. It is also possible for the court to exclude certain witnesses.
Speedy Trial Rights
The Constitution’s Sixth Amendment states that defendants have the right to a speedy trial. This right promotes judicial efficiency. It also prevents unfair delays in processing the defendant’s case. In some scenarios a case can be dismissed if a trial does not occur within a specified time.
Right to a Jury
All those accused of a crime have the right to be tried in front of a jury of their peers. This right is also found in the Sixth Amendment. There are also protections in place for the fair selection of jury members. Furthermore, in most jurisdictions a defendant cannot be convicted unless there is a unanimous decision.
Another right found in the Sixth Amendment concerns representation by an attorney. This is often referred to as “assistance of counsel.” A defendant can always have an attorney handling the case. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney they may use the services of the Public Defender. Defendants can always elect to defend themselves if they prefer.
Every defendant also has the right to adequate representation. A defense lawyer that makes very serious mistakes in a trial may violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. This could give the defendant grounds to appeal the case.
The accused has the right to hear witness testimony and to perform a cross-examination. The state’s attorneys are responsible for presenting witnesses to testify against the defendant. The intent behind this right is to allow the jury and defense to assess the credibility of the witness.
Under the Eight Amendment the defendant has the right to reasonable bail. Defendants also cannot be sentenced to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The restriction against cruel punishments means that prisoners must be given humane treatment while in custody. It also means that the length of a sentence should match the severity of the crime.
Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
One of the most often asserted protections is found in the Fourth Amendment. A suspect has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Police must have probable cause to carry out a search, or to confiscate items from the defendant. In some cases a warrant may be necessary as well. In fact, the only time police do not need a warrant is where the circumstances allow for a warrantless search. If law enforcement violates the 4th Amendment it may be possible to suppress the evidence obtained.
For assistance in better understanding these rights contact a criminal defense attorney for a consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions Do I have to be present to Enter a Plea in my Criminal Case?
You have been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence and the time is fast approaching when you will have to enter your plea in the court. This can be a confusing time for many drivers, wondering does the court require they be present to enter a plea in their Chicago criminal case.
In this instance, it is always better to err on the side of caution, and speaking with your Chicago DUI attorney will allow you to get the most informed answer.
Being Present for a Misdemeanor Case
Driving under the influence (DUI) is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Illinois. Usually when a person is charged with a misdemeanor in the state of Illinois, they can have an attorney represent them and enter the plea in the court on their behalf. That being said, with the DUI, things tend to get a little tricky. Being accused of DUI in Illinois may be the one exception to this rule, because you may be afforded a non appearance, but sometimes the court does require the defendant appear before the court to make their plea.
When you have been charged with DUI in the state of Illinois, it is extremely important that you take this matter serious and retain counsel. Your DUI attorney is familiar with both the court and the judge presiding over your case and will have a better understanding about whether you must be present in the court or not. When there is doubt, in this instance it is always best to get dressed and show up. The judge might decide they wanted you in the court and will now be able to issue a bench warrant because you are not present.
Being Present for a Felony Case
When the driver is arrested for DUI and it is considered to be a felony case, then there is no reason to consult with an attorney about whether or not you need to be in the court. When accused of a felony in Chicago, the accused must be in the court to make their plea. Regardless if this is for an arraignment, preliminary hearing, plea, or sentencing, the courts require the defendant be present or a bench warrant will be issued by the judge. One reason the courts in Illinois require that the defendant be present to enter a plea in a DUI case is because bail could be an issue, the judge could ask for bail, or the judge could increase the bail that was previously posted.
Your DUI attorney understands how imperative it is that you be present during these hearings, and will put your mind at ease by explaining in detail what you need to say and what you will expect at every step of the way. Your attorney is there to make certain that everything is carried out with full accordance of the law.
Complexity of the DUI Cases
Each DUI case is different from the next, and regardless if you feel the case is being presented as a misdemeanor, you want to be in the court in case things change. New evidence might come to light in your case where a victim comes forward concerning a hit and run, and your case could become a felony. Your attorney will be on top of everything, but drivers who feel they can represent themselves run into trouble when new evidence is presented.
Showing up in court for every hearing will allow you to follow along with any changes to the case that could arise.
Still Unsure About Appearing in Court
When in doubt about being present to enter a plea in a Chicago criminal case, just show up. Showing up to court can not hurt your case, but not being in front of the judge could result in serious consequences that might negatively impact the penalty handed down. The last thing that you want is a bench warrant being handed down because you misunderstood or the online forum you checked gave you incorrect information. Don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to entering a plea, retain counsel and consult with the DUI attorney as the time approaches.
Your Chicago DUI attorney will be in the best position to tell you exactly when and where you need be present. Perhaps the judge has a question or more information is needed, it is always best to be safe than sorry in this instance.
If you are ever wondering does the court require you be present to enter a plea in your Chicago criminal case, start with asking your DUI attorney rather than friends or Google. Your attorney spends a considerable amount of time in that court, understands the needs of each judge, and is informed about all the complexities concerning these type cases in Illinois.