What should I know or expect on my first court date? There will be hundreds of other cases up that day. GET THERE EARLY! It can take an hour to find parking, wait in line for a security check, and then get to your courtroom. DON’T BE LATE! Some Judges won’t tolerate you arriving late into their courtroom even by one minute. TAKE THE WHOLE MORNING OR AFTERNOON OFF! You could be waiting a long while for your case to get called. Usually an attorney can get your case called early but not always. JUDGES RANDOMLY TEST FOR DRUGS OR ALCOHOL!!! Don’t test positive or you will go to jail. NO CAMERA PHONE OR ANY RECORDING DEVICE ALLOWED! (DuPage and Will Counties) Security will turn you away and then back to the end of the line. TURN YOUR CELL PHONE OFF! If it goes off in the courtroom you will have it taken away. DON’T BRING CHILDREN! Many judges hate that very much.
Can’t the person who made the complaint against me drop the charges? No, this is a myth. All, charges, even tickets written by officers, are under the complete control of the State’s Attorney’s office. Although police officers often make arrests, or charges are often brought because someone makes a complaint, the State’s Attorney has complete control over the: who, what, when, how and why of a criminal charge. Not even a Judge can interfere in that process, however, a judge or jury will ultimately have final say on how a case ends later in the process.
What is Bond? Bond is a promise to the court that you will: (1) show up to court, on time, when you are told (2) not violate any other laws (3) not leave the state of Illinois (4) obey any other conditions set by the judge. In return you are allowed to remain out of jail while the case is pending. You “post bond” when you sign a traffic ticket, or when you pay the bond amount on a warrant or the amount set by a judge. Bond must be reasonable and must not be used as a form of punishment. You can ask a judge to lower your bond if you are stuck in jail and are having trouble getting the money. If you posted money as bond that money stays with the file until the case is ended at which time the judge will decide what happens including (1) retuning the money to the person who posted it, (2) paying your attorney’s fees (3) paying fines and court costs and restitution. If you violate the bond terms the court can revoke your bond and put you back in jail and you can lose the money that was posted.
What are my options? Your basic options are: (1) Plead not guilty and demand a trial by a Jury of your peers (12 people from the community) or a trial by the judge alone, (2) plead guilty with prearranged “deal” with the State’s Attorney as to what the sentence will be which must be approved by the judge, (3) make a “Blind” plea of guilty and then get sentenced by the judge at a hearing where you and the State’s Attorney argue about what sentence you should get.
What are my rights? Some of your rights are: (1) remaining silent, (2) have an attorney advise you, (3) have a “reasonable” bond, (4) to see the evidence against you and confront your accusers and witnesses in the courtroom at the trial, (5) the presumption that you are innocent, (6) the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you don’t have to prove your innocence, (7) to bring evidence and witnesses in your defense, (8) to testify on your own behalf, (9) to make a presentation in your favor and make your own statement before a judge sentences you.
The officer didn’t “read me my rights” when I was arrested, what now? There is no requirement that a police officer read you your rights - often called a “Miranda warning”. All the warning does is allow the officer to testify in court about what answers you gave during questioning while you were in the officer’s custody. If the warning is not given when you are arrested, then the only consequence is that the officer cannot testify in court about the statements you made if interrogated while in custody.
What are some ways that I can win my case? (1) By your attorney convincing the State to drop the charge. This is the rarest way a case ends and almost never happens. The State clearly believes they can prove you did something wrong or there never would have been a charge in the first place. Usually you need absolute proof of innocence. (2) Convincing the Judge at a hearing to throw out crucial evidence if it was illegally obtained. Examples could include an illegal arrest, search, or interrogation. (3) Having a Judge or Jury to find you not guilty after a trial.
If I can’t win my case what then? You can plead guilty and ask for a fair punishment. You can do this with an agreement with the State’s Attorney as to what the punishment should be. If you can’t reach an agreement you can do a “blind” plea where the judge can give you any punishment from the minimum to the maximum for your charge. At a “blind” plea the State and you take turns telling the judge what you each believe that punishment should be then the judge makes a final decision.
How long will all this take? Most cases, on average, take 2-5 court dates to get resolved, each date is usually about 30 days apart. A simple traffic or simple misdemeanor case can be just one court date. A complex felony can go on for a year or more. Usually, an attorney pleads you not guilty at the first court date, to preserve all your rights, and then asks for additional court dates to gather the evidence, review the facts and law, prepare you for trial and negotiate a deal.
Do I have to show up at every court date, even if I have an attorney? YES! There are many judges that will issue a warrant for your arrest if you don’t show, on time, even if your attorney is there. Some judges may be a little more lenient but don’t count on it. Most judges will not excuse your absence unless you are hospitalized or something that serious and your lawyer has written proof.
Can I rush my case and get it over with quickly? Yes, but this is not advisable. You wouldn’t rush your doctor through a surgery for the same reason, that is how mistakes get made. Also, your attorney needs to get important evidence from the police and the court and the State’s Attorney’s office. These government agencies can take a long time to process their thousands of files and send information to your attorney.
Can I delay my case? Yes, an experienced attorney can find ways to extend a case if that is best for you. However, most judges start to demand a case end at some point, some sooner than others.
How much will this cost? Call my office immediately for a legal fees quote. Normally all fees are due up front but we can work out a payment plan if needed. There will be court costs and fines if you plead guilty or are found guilty and these fees can vary greatly depending on the case. You can ask the court for time to pay off fines or court costs.