Thursday, December 3, 2009

I HAVE A FELONY. WHAT CAN I EXPECT?

You saw some designer jeans that you couldn’t resist, so you stuffed them into your bag. When store security stopped you, the merchandize you had shoplifted cost more than $150, enough to make your offense a Class 3 felony in Illinois, punishable by a prison term of 2 to 5 years. Or maybe your crime involved an offense such as carrying drugs, concealing a weapon, committing a battery, burglarizing or even getting stopped for DUI one time too many.

These offenses and more can result in your being charged with a felony. In Illinois, a felony can range from a Class 1 to a Class 4. In addition, Class X felonies are reserved for particularly severe offenses such as murder and sexual assault on a child. Penalties for a first offense in many cases may still result in probation, but some felonies carry mandatory minimum prison terms. If convicted, a Class X felony calls for a mandatory minimum term of 6 years.

If you are charged with a felony, what kind of legal procedures can you expect? In the Circuit Court of Cook County, such as the Skokie or Maywood courthouses, after going into custody, you will be granted a bond hearing. At the bond hearing, the court will set the amount of bail necessary to permit your release from jail. In all likelihood, the State will argue for the Court to set the highest bond possible, or in some cases, to deny bond altogether. An experienced attorney can help present those factors most likely to persuade a particular judge to set a reasonable bail.

About a month after the bond hearing, your case will be set for a preliminary hearing, that is a hearing to establish whether the police had probable cause to charge you. An experienced attorney can help by asking the right questions to create doubt about whether the police had a valid reason to stop you. A successful preliminary hearing can result in the charges being dismissed.

At the next court date, you will be brought for arraignment, where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will automatically give up many of your rights, such as the right to test the evidence against you. Your case may then be over, but you may end up with a stiffer penalty than if you fight the charges. If you enter a not guilty plea, the process of discovery begins. Your attorney will ask to see any evidence against you. After assessing this evidence, the attorney may negotiate a plea agreement or take your case to trial.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a felony, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. It is important that you not speak about this case with anyone other than an attorney, so as to avoid jeopardizing any defense you may have. Any communications about a case on Facebook or similar web pages should be removed.

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