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Rockford Criminal Defense Attorney

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​what can I expect from the criminal defense process?

Providing an Aggressive Defense Against Your Charges​

     At the Law Office of Jonathan James we want to help you understand what to expect in the months following a criminal charge. By understanding the Illinois court processes relevant to your case, you can ensure that you remain in the best position possible to have your charges favorably resolved. 

​Pre-Arrest Police Investigation

     Prior to making an arrest, Law Enforcement is required to collect enough evidence to establish probable cause against an individual. A lot of times, the police do not have a smoking gun and instead they rely on statements that they collect from individuals.  If the police suspect that you have broken the law, they may contact you by phone or ask that you come meet with them at the station so they may question you about an incident.  It is important to know that if you are the subject of an investigation, you do not have to answer any questions.  We recommend that anyone at this stage of the process remain silent, and not talk about the situation with their accuser, other individuals or law enforcement. Everything said can and will be used against you later on.

Bond Court / Notice to Appear

     After someone is arrested the police will transport them to the local detention center or jail. They will first be booked in. This will involve being fingerprinted, having a mug shot taken, and being evaluated by jail medical staff. For misdemeanor cases, bond will be set by the arresting officer and you may be released once you post the necessary amount.  For felony and domestic battery cases, bond needs to be set by a judge in bond court.  This usually occurs within 24 hours of the arrest.  The purpose of Bond Court is to determine if they will be allowed to be released from jail while the charges are pending. The judge will set any conditions on this release, usually involving the posting of a cash deposit with the court and other conditions such as to avoid contact with the alleged victim. In certain circumstances, such as drug cases and domestic battery cases, you may be required to attend counselling and submit to random drug testing while out on bond.  

     In certain circumstances, you might not be taken to jail after you are charged.  Instead you will be served with a notice to appear and sent on your way.  The purpose of a notice to appear is to allow people with lesser offenses to avoid jail when they are charged.  Even though you are not taken to jail, you still need to be processed through the jail.  This processing will occur on the first court and involves being photographed and fingerprinted prior to appearing before the judge.  These court appearances can take several hours since there are usually a lot of people that need to be processed.  

​Grand Jury / Preliminary Hearing

     In Illinois, all persons charged with a felony offense are entitled to a probable cause determination within 30 days of being charged if the person is in custody and 60 days if the person is out of custody. This determination is made in one of two ways, a grand jury or a preliminary hearing.  A Grand Jury is a secretive process whereby the State's Attorney's Office will call witnesses in front of a Grand Jury in order to determine if probable cause exists for the felony charge.  The rules of evidence are relaxed at this hearing and the prosecutor will often times ask a series of leading questions to very cooperative witnesses.  After the evidence is presented, the jury will deliberate and determine if probable cause exists.  

     The other type of probable cause determination is a Preliminary hearing.  Unlike a grand jury, in a preliminary hearing the defense is given an opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses and cross examine the prosecution's witnesses.  After all the evidence is heard, a judge will make the determination of whether probable cause exists.  If the prosecution fails to get a probable cause determination at a preliminary hearing, they still have the option of presenting the case to a grand jury.  Likewise, if they fail to get a probable cause determination at a grand jury, they may have a preliminary hearing.    


     The arraignment is the first court date after the Defendant is formally charge.  With misdemeanor cases this will be the first court date.  With felonies, this is the first court date after a Bill of Indictment has been returned.  At this appearance, the court will formally read the charges that are pending, list the possible penalties and advise you all your rights.  This is also the time when you enter your plea to the charges that are pending.  If you plea not guilty, you will be given another court date and asked to return on that date.  This allows the defense time to receive discovery from the prosecution, collect evidence, file pre-trial motions and build a defense strategy.


​Criminal Trial

     All defendants in Illinois who are charged with any criminal or traffic offense are entitled to a fully contested trial either before a judge or before a jury. In a jury trial, all jurors must unanimously determine the verdict.  All jury trials in Illinois consist of 12 jurors and usually include 1 to 2 alternates depending on the type of case.  Cases are not normally scheduled for trial for several months or more after the initial arrest. Defendants have numerous important rights at their trial, and in fact have more rights than the prosecutor or the judge. One of the roles of a defense attorney during the trial is to ensure that those rights are enforced, and that the court and the jury are given reasons why the charges should either be dismissed or a not-guilty verdict should be returned.

Contact Us Today

     As you can see, there are many steps involved in defending an Illinois criminal charge. By taking advantage of the legal procedures available you can position your case in the way to give you the best chance at a favorable outcome. Delays in seeking legal representation can sometimes result in lost opportunities that can lead to unfair and unjust results. We offer free initial consultations to anyone under investigation that is charged with a criminal offense in Illinois. To schedule your appointment contact our office today. Although we are located in downtown Rockford, we accept cases throughout Northern Illinois including Freeport, Belvidere, Oregon, Galena, and Mount Carroll.

Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Rockford, Illinois?  Call the Law Office of Jonathan James for a FREE CASE EVALUATION

(779) 500-0167