Process of a Felony Case

By Steve Haney posted in Felonies on Saturday, July 30, 2011

A felony is any crime that carries a potential sentence to the Illinois Department of Corrections.  The purpose of this post is to discuss the process of a felony case as it moves through the Will County, Illinois court system.

Every Will County felony case begins with an arrest.  If the arrest is based on an arrest warrant, the amount of bail needed to post for release has already been set.  If the arrest happens without an arrest warrant, an appearance before a judge for the purpose of setting the amount of bail will be necessary.  This appearance usually occurs within one day of the arrest.

The purpose of the initial court appearance is limited to the setting of bail, the filing of a criminal complaint, and setting another court date for the purpose of arraignment.  Prior to the arraignment, there most be a hearing to determine whether probable cause exists to believe the charged crime was committed.  In Will County, this hearing is almost always done by the Will County grand jury.

The grand jury convenes in secret for the limited purpose of determining the existence of probable cause for felonies.  The defendant does not participate in this process.  The prosecutor has a witness, or witnesses, testify before the grand jury regarding the case.  If the grand jury believes probable cause exists for the crime, it will issue a bill of indictment. It is rare for the grand jury not to find probable cause.

At the arraignment, the bill of indictment will be presented to the defense, the judge will order the prosecution provide the defense the police reports and all other material in its possession.  The case will be assigned to one of six potential felony trial judges, who will preside over the case for its remainder.  Lastly, another court date will be set for the first time appearance before the assigned trial judge.

The process of the felony case at this juncture will vary to some extent depending upon the particular practices of the trial judge.  However, each case will go through a “pre-trial” process.  This process will include the filing and litigation of any pre-trial motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence, and ensuring all discovery has been properly exchanged between the parties.

Also during the pre-trial phase of the case, plea-bargaining will take place.  The prosecution will offer a settlement of the charge to the defense.  This can be a give and take process that will vary depending on the nature of the charge and the potential penalties involved.

If no agreement is reached in the plea-bargaining process,  a defendant can still plead guilty to the case, or sometimes, part of the case and ask the judge to issue the sentence.  This is referred to in Will County as a “blind plea” and its purpose is to, hopefully, achieve a lighter sentence than that requested by the prosecution.

If the case is not resolved by a guilty plea, the case will then proceed to trial where a judge or a jury will determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty by determining whether the evidence in the case meets the standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.  An acquittal, of course, ends the case. After a guilty verdict, the case will lastly proceed to a sentencing where the judge will determine the penalty to be imposed.

Please feel free to contact Joliet criminal defense lawyer Steven Haney regarding any questions about a Will County felony case involving you or a loved one.