From arrest to sentencing, here’s a general overview of what you can expect in an Illinois criminal case.

Pre-arrest. Sometimes a criminal case starts with an arrest. Other times, a victim or someone else calls the police to report a crime. If warranted, police detectives will investigate the crime. Once they have enough “probable cause” they can make an arrest. Having probable cause means that the police have a reasonable belief that a crime was committed.

Arrest. Sometimes, an arrest happens right away, such as when an officer sees the crime occurring and arrests the suspect on the spot. Other times it happens after some investigation or a search for the suspect.

Charges. After an arrest, the police or the state’s attorney, or both, will determine which charges are appropriate for the crime allegedly committed.

Bond. After being charged, a defendant will find out whether he or she will be released on bond. This means that they post the required bail and are released until the next court date. For most misdemeanors, the bond amount is pre-set. For more serious crimes, a bond hearing will be held, usually within 24 hours but almost always within 48 hours.

Arraignment. The arraignment happens about a month after an arrest. It’s the official notification of the charges against someone. For felonies, a grand jury first reviews the evidence and makes an independent determination on whether there is enough evidence to go forward with prosecution.

Discovery. Attorneys for both sides collect and review evidence and get ready for trial. There may be pre-trial motions during this time, often about the admission of various evidence. There may be other court dates set by the judge to make sure the case is moving along as it should.

Trial. The defendant has the right to a jury trial or a bench trial (no jury). It’s up to them. At trial, both sides – defense and prosecution – argue their case, present evidence and question witnesses in court. Guilt or innocence is determined by the judge or jury.

Sentencing. If the defendant is found guilty, the next and last step is sentencing. Both sides argue for what they think is a reasonable sentence. The prosecution might present evidence of past crimes, and the defense might present evidence of mitigation (defendant’s good standing in the community, for example).

An appeal follows a different process. If you have questions about what to expect in an Illinois criminal case, feel free to give us a call. 

Written by Michael Helfand