If someone believes they have been a victim to a crime, it should be reported to their local law enforcement agency. A law enforcement officer will then be dispatched to the crime scene, or the victim will be asked to go to the police station to make a report.
After a report has been made, a detective will begin the investigation phase. Depending on the crime, this phase may be short. It may consist of interviewing suspects and reviewing physical evidence. In other cases, a more extensive investigation may be needed.
Though a person or group of people believe they have been victimized, as the investigation advances, it may show no crime was committed. In these situations, although the criminal justice system may not be able to provide a remedy for the victim, the victim may be able to file a civil suit. The State’s Attorney’s Office cannot assist victims of civil torts.
When an investigation comes to a point where law enforcement has probable cause that a person committed a crime, they may make an arrest. A decision of what offense or offenses have been committed are determined during this phase. Some offenses can be charged in a variety of different ways. For example, some charges may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances around the conduct.
Once a suspect is charged, they become a defendant in a criminal case and may be eligible to be released on bond. In most misdemeanor cases, except for domestic violence cases, a defendant’s bond is set by judicial rule. If they are able to post the required amount of bail, they may be released from custody.
If the defendant cannot post bail or they are charged with a more serious criminal offense where, they will appear before a judge for a bond hearing within 48 hours of arrest. The judge then determines the appropriate level of bail. The amount a judge sets should be appropriate to protect the public and assure the defendant’s appearance in court. The bond is not a punishment for the offense.
As bail is set, the circuit clerk will assign the case to a courtroom and set a date for the defendant’s arraignment. While awaiting arraignment, the State’s Attorney' Office will assign an Assistant State’s Attorney to prosecute the case on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois. Once assigned, the Assistant State’s Attorney (ASA), will begin to gather all evidence related to the case.
During this phase, there may be many case status court dates where prosecutors and defense attorneys will have the opportunity to speak about possible plea deals and may come to a plea agreement. If both parties do come to an agreement and a guilty plea is entered, there will be no trial.
The defendant has the option to have a jury trial or a bench trial, a trial where the presiding judge decides whether the defendant is guilty or not of the charges.
During a trial, both the State’s Attorney’s Office and defense attorneys will have the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses. If the defendant is found guilty of a felony offense, the judge will have a pre-sentencing investigation done by the probation department and set a sentencing date. A pre-sentence investigation is a report that details the specifics of a crime and provides information about the defendant’s life and criminal history.
During a sentencing hearing, the assigned Assistant State’s Attorney (ASA), may argue for an appropriate sentence and may even introduce evidence of past criminal involvement. Depending on the crime, victim impact statements may also be read either by a victim or someone else may read them on their behalf.
The defense will also argue for what they believe is an appropriate sentence and introduce evidence into mitigation. After arguments have been completed, the judge imposes the sentence they feel is just.