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Rolling Meadows Criminal Defense LawyerAny criminal charge can be life-changing, but the criminal penalties and personal consequences associated with violent offenses are especially severe. If you or a loved one were charged with domestic battery, sexual assault, homicide, or another violent offense, the need for strong legal counsel cannot be overstated. Your lawyer can investigate your case and determine the best way to proceed. In some cases, the defendant's best option is to fight the charges at trial and hope for an acquittal. In other cases, it is better to arrange a plea deal or plea bargain. 

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a criminal charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or some other benefit. For example, a prosecutor might agree to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea. Or, the prosecutor might agree to recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. 

Plea bargains are not available in every case, and they are not always in the defendant's best interest. In some cases, it is better to take the case to trial. However, plea bargains can be beneficial because they offer the opportunity to resolve the case without going to trial. A plea bargain can also result in a lighter sentence than the defendant would receive if convicted at trial.

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IL defense lawyerEveryone has heard the classic line that “your home is your castle.” This means that your residence is considered sacred, and deserves protection from unwanted intrusion by others. One way Illinois recognizes this right is through its laws against burglary and criminal trespass to a residence. These are both types of unwanted home intrusion. But how are they different?

What is Criminal Trespass to a Residence?

In Illinois law, if you knowingly enter someone else’s home, or stay there without their permission, that is considered “criminal trespass.” The key to charging and proving this criminal offense is intent. For the trespass to be unlawful, the offender must have knowingly entered the property without the owner’s permission or stayed there after knowing that they were unwelcome there.

Accidentally wandering onto someone’s property is not criminal trespass—but intentionally ignoring no trespassing signs or a locked door may be. If the property is unoccupied at the time, this offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, or two years probation with formal supervision. If the home is occupied, it is considered a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

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shutterstock_2036968964.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase “assault and battery,” as though this were a single offense. So you may be surprised that in Illinois, unlike some states, these are actually two different crimes that can be charged separately. Under Illinois law, battery is either conduct causing bodily harm or insulting, provocative, or unwanted physical contact with another person. Assault, on the other hand, is intentional conduct that causes the fear of imminent violence. So while a battery would generally include actual physical contact or injury, an assault would merely be a real or implied threat of physical harm.

Why does this matter? Because in Illinois, even without laying a finger on someone, just threatening them with words or actions until they feared for their safety is a crime that deserves punishment.

For “simple assault,” a Class C misdemeanor, that penalty is a maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail, along with community service of up to 120 hours. And if you are pointing a gun or knife in a threatening way at the time, then that can up the ante to “aggravated assault.” This can be charged as either a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a $2,500 fine, or a more serious Class 4 felony, which carries the potential for as much as three years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. (Plus, with any prior convictions for aggravated assault, the prison term can increase to a maximum of three to six years.)

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IL defense lawyerCrimes that affect children are taken very seriously, and a person who is accused of these types of offenses may face a lengthy prison sentence if they are convicted, as well as multiple other types of penalties. Sex crimes that allegedly involve child victims are considered to be especially reprehensible, and offenses related to child pornography will usually be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those who are accused of possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography will need to understand the specific charges they may face, the penalties that may apply if they are convicted, and their options for defense.

Illinois Child Pornography Crimes

According to Illinois law, child pornography may include any depictions of a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. This may include actual or simulated sexual intercourse and other activities meant to stimulate sexual arousal, as well as depictions of a child’s unclothed genitals or other private parts. Child pornography may consist of photographs, videos, live performances, or other visual depictions of children that are sexual in nature. Depictions of a person over the age of 18 with a severe intellectual disability may also be considered child pornography.

A person may be charged with possession of child pornography based on any materials that they know or should have known depict a person under the age of 18. If the materials in question consist of videos or other moving images, or if material depicts a child under the age of 13, a person may be charged with a Class 2 felony, which carried a prison sentence of three to seven years. If child pornography consists of photos or other still images, a person may be charged with a Class 3 felony, which carries a prison sentence of two to five years. Possession of child pornography may also result in a fine of up to $100,000.

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IL defense lawyerIf you have been arrested and charged with a crime, your highest priority is likely to avoid conviction altogether. However, if you are ultimately convicted, you still may have hopes of avoiding a prison sentence. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible for criminal defendants in Cook County to avoid prison time through an alternative sentencing program. An attorney can help you determine whether you may be eligible for alternative sentencing and negotiate on your behalf with the goal of achieving this outcome.

Cook County Alternative Sentencing Options

The availability of alternative sentencing largely depends on the county in which you are facing charges. Cook County offers several different programs that may be available to you, including:

  • Deferred prosecution - Certain non-violent misdemeanor and felony offenders may be eligible for a deferred prosecution program if they have no prior convictions and have not participated in the program before. The program typically requires the offender to complete requirements including education and community service within a specified time frame, after which their charges can be dismissed.
  • Drug or mental health treatment - High-risk non-violent offenders who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder or psychiatric condition may be eligible for a probationary program that includes participation in a treatment program.
  • Veterans treatment - Similar to drug or mental health treatment, this option is available to non-violent offenders who have a record of military service without dishonorable discharge.
  • Second Chance Probation - This option is available statewide to offenders charged with low-level, non-violent felony crimes such as drug possession, theft, burglary, and criminal trespassing. Eligible participants must not have a prior felony conviction. In order to successfully complete probation, participants must meet several requirements, including refraining from committing further crimes or possessing firearms, submitting to drug tests, seeking education and employment, performing community service, and making restitution to victims of the crime.
  • Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program - The SWAP program allows non-violent misdemeanor, felony, and traffic offenders to perform supervised community service for public works projects instead of serving time in jail or prison.
  • Restorative Justice Community Court - The North Lawndale community of Chicago offers a unique option for non-violent offenders between the ages of 18 and 26, in which they agree to complete a course of action to repair the harm caused by their crime.

Contact a Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney

At Hartsfield Law, we are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients who are facing criminal charges. If you are concerned about a possible conviction and prison sentence, we will review your case and help you pursue any available alternative sentencing options. Contact us at 312-345-1700 for a free consultation with our Chicago criminal defense lawyer.

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