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Your Champaign Criminal Case: The Basics

Last updated: December 27, 2013

Dealing with a criminal case is never at the top of anyone's list. Between the court appearances, bail bonds, and potential impact a conviction could have on your life, it's not worth the underlying stress. But, if you or someone you love has been arrested in Champaign and are going to court, you are probably looking for some legal information. What should you do? What is going to happen? Do you need a lawyer?

Since arrests occur in so many different situations, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen. This article provides general information about what to expect in most cases if you are arrested in the "Silicon Prairie."

The Arrest

Most people never really have contact with the police. This might be your first time. Hopefully, it will be your last. The cops you've seen on TV are usually pretty intimidating. The good cop, bad cop deal. Naturally, you may be scared. Here's what to expect.

You'll have had contact with either the Champaign Police Department, the Illinois State Police, or the Champaign County Sheriff.

Rest assured. Despite what you may have seen on television or in the movies, your Champaign criminal case isn't an episode of Dragnet or Law and Order. The police must follow several rules. If they don't, it could jeopardize the state's case against you.

Miranda Warnings

At some point upon arrest or when taken into custody, you should be read your Miranda rights. You know the words. Some variation of: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford one, an attorney will be appointed for you." Then, police have two options: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date. If you're taken into custody, and you'll either be released on your own recognizance or you'll have to post bail or bond. Bail is money that you have to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

You can expect to be fingerprinted, photographed and provide general information about yourself such as home address, birth date, and occupation. You should be given a copy of your complaint which tells you what you are being charged with.

Looking for an Inmate

If you know someone who has been arrested and are trying to find them, the Sherriff's website may be able to help you track that person down. Most persons who are arrested are taken to the Champaign County Corrections Division, an adult local detention facility located in Urbana, Illinois, which is the county seat for Champaign County.

First Court Appearance

Next, you'll be arraigned at one of Champaign's courts. When you go in front of the judge you may feel quite intimidated, particularly if this is your first time in the system. You aren't the only one. Courtrooms aren't welcoming places. However, knowing what generally happens may ease your fears.

The judge will call you before the court. Then, he or she will read the charges against you and may readjust your bail. You'll also enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, you will have the option of hiring a lawyer, representing yourself, or asking for the Champaign County Public Defender.

Misdemeanors

Although a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, a conviction can still have a major impact on your life and future career possibilities.

After your arraignment, your lawyer may speak to the prosecutor to start negotiating a resolution to your case either through dismissal, deferred prosecution, or an offer. Often, your case will be continued so that you and your lawyer can review the evidence against you and determine what the best way to proceed is.

Motions

Sometimes a case can be won by fighting to get evidence thrown out. If the police gathered evidence against you in an illegal way, all the evidence that is gathered after the illegal search or seizure may be inadmissible. If this evidence is suppressed, the prosecutor may not be able to prove their case against you and could be forced to throw the case out. Your attorney will know what motions, if any, can be filed in your case.

Misdemeanor Penalties

In Illinois, misdemeanors are classified from A to C. Misdemeanor charges have a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail or less, usually with no mandatory minimum jail time for most charges. But you are still at significant risk for a jail sentence for many misdemeanor offenses in Illinois, particularly on a repeat offense.

Felony Cases

Felonies are serious crimes that carry large penalties, including a year or more of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. Felony crimes fall into five classes in Illinois, which represent the severity of the offense (and consequences) at issue.

Preliminary Hearing

One of the steps in a felony case distinguishing it from a misdemeanor one is the preliminary hearing, which is a short evidentiary hearing. Why? Essentially, the court wants to determine if there is enough "probable cause" to send you to trial. A judge will hear the evidence. If the judge "holds you to answer" for the charges, she'll set a trial date and you'll be arraigned again. Generally, defendants do not testify at a preliminary hearing.

If the judge makes a finding of no probable cause, your case usually ends at that point. Although the State may still seek an indictment after a finding of no probable cause, in most cases this ruling by the judge results in the charges being dismissed.
 
Arraignment

If you are held to answer for the charges, you'll have another arraignment. Upon a plea of "not guilty," the case gets set for a plea-bargaining conference. A guilty plea would, of course, lead to whatever consequences were agreed to in a plea bargain or to sentencing.

Trial

If you go to trial, the prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You automatically have the right to a jury trial where twelve randomly selected members of the community decide your guilt or innocence. Both the prosecutor and defense will present evidence. Remember, you can't be compelled to testify. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will sentence you.

Criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. If you have been charged with an offense, you may wish to at least consider consulting a skilled attorney.