Things to Know if Charged with a Felony in Chicago
Whether you live in Lincoln Park, Evanston or Schaumburg, a Chicago felony charge is a serious allegation. If you are charged with a felony in the Chicago area, you should consider hiring a Chicago criminal defense attorney to help you understand the charges against you as well as the defense options available to you.
Although Chicago criminal lawyers know the Illinois criminal process, you should still familiarize yourself with Chicago felony laws prior to hiring an attorney. This article will help you get a basic understanding of the things you should know once you are charged with a felony.
What Is a Chicago Felony?
A felony is a serious crime that usually entails a punishment of more than a year in jail. In Chicago, there are a number of crimes that constitute a felony. These crimes can be committed against people or property.
Some of the crimes that constitute Chicago felonies include:
- Certain types of assault and battery
- Certain types of theft and burglary
- Extreme cases of arson
The Chicago Felony Process: The Arrest
It is important for you to know what the Chicago felony process is like. This way you will know what to expect after you have been charged with committing a felony.
At the time of your arrest, you will have several rights reserved for you. Of these rights, one of the most important is the right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to answer any police or investigator questions during the arrest process. Instead, you can wait until you have a lawyer present. This helps prevent you from incriminating yourself.
You will also have the right to an attorney. If you do not already have a Chicago criminal lawyer and you cannot afford one, you will have one appointed to you. Otherwise, you may have the opportunity to contact your lawyer once you are taken to the police station for booking.
The Chicago Felony Process: Appointing an Attorney
If you do not already have an attorney and do not wish to have a public defender appointed to represent you, you or someone you trust should take the necessary steps to investigate Chicago criminal defense lawyers for you.
If you have the opportunity, ask friends for referrals to find the right criminal defense lawyer for you. You can also access a site like Attorneys.com, which can connect you to criminal defense lawyers in the Chicago area. Just fill out the online questionnaire, and you will get the name of at least one area criminal defense lawyer. You can either contact him directly, or he will contact you within two business days.
You should then set up meeting with the attorneys you are interested in hiring. This is called a consultation. Ask them questions about their work history and experience. Tell them about the facts of your Chicago felony case and get an assessment of your options.
Once you have exhausted all your questions and have had some time to think it over, choose a defense attorney to represent you in court. You will want to choose the one you feel the most comfortable speaking to and whom you trust to represent you the best.
The Chicago Felony Process: The Arraignment
Within three days of your arrest, you and your attorney will appear in court so that you can enter your plea regarding your felony charges. In Chicago, there are several pleas available to you.
If you plead guilty, you are acknowledging that the charges against you are true and that you did commit a felony.
If you plead not guilty, you are denying the charges against you, and the judge will set a trial date.
If you plead no contest, you will be sentenced; however, you do not enter a formal guilty plea. This kind of plea is often used if you anticipate a related civil trial to occur.
Finally, you may also enter a mute plea, in which the court will enter the plea into the record as not guilty. You will then have the opportunity to attack the criminal process up to that point.
The Chicago Felony Process: The Trial
Once the trial date rolls around, you will have to appear in court where the prosecution will attempt to prove that you are guilty of the Chicago felony charges. It is the job of you and your attorney to deploy a defense to cast doubt on the prosecution's charges.
Another option besides using a defense is to enter into a plea bargain. Prior to trial, your attorney may try to strike a deal with the prosecution to reduce your charges in exchange for a guilty plea. This is a plea bargain, and, in some circumstances, it can help drastically reduce your sentence.