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Criminal Defense FAQ’s

If the police seek to question me before or after my arrest, do I have to speak to them?

No. You do not need to answer any of the questions posed to you by the police. If law enforcement, investigators or even prosecuting attorneys ask you questions, or request that you provide a statement about the circumstances of the crime, it is important that you only provide information if your attorney is present. Any statement you make, incriminating or not, can and will be used against you. Even if you believe that what you have to say will declare your innocence, in many instances, information you give them could wind up damaging your case. Once the police have decided you are the main suspect, nothing you say is going to change their minds. Police can misquote you, either accidentally or intentionally. They can change facts – for example, concluding the time of the crime was later or earlier if you have a solid alibi at the previously reported time of the crime. They can claim you lied to them. You should always stay silent until you have spoken to your lawyer.

Can I go to jail for the charges that I am facing?

The possibility of jail depends on crime you have been charged with committing. If you are charged with a petty offense such as an ordinance violation or minor traffic violation, you cannot be sentenced to jail. Petty offenses can only be punished by fine. On the other hand, misdemeanor charges may be punishable by jail. Misdemeanor offenses include more serious traffic violations such as driving while suspended, or driving under the influence of alcohol. There are various types of misdemeanor offenses and the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is 364 days and a fine of up to $2,500. The sentence of a misdemeanor will depend upon many factors which include the severity of the offense, defendant’s criminal background, and whether mandatory sentencing provisions apply. If you are charged with a felony, you could be sentenced to a period of imprisonment in the state prison system. The length of imprisonment depends upon the type of felony.

Why do I need a lawyer for my DUI?

Getting arrested for driving under the influence alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) can be daunting. A charge of DUI is generally comprised of 2 separate cases. There is a summary suspension of your license and driving privileges which begins the 46th day following the date of the arrest, as well as the criminal charge(s) for DUI which can result in jail, fines and the revocation of driving privileges upon conviction. Motions for discovery, subpoenas, pre-trial motions, and requests for driving relief need to be prepared, filed and presented before the court. Having an experienced attorney is essential and will allow you to know exactly which defenses may be available in your case and will guide you so that the legal consequences of your arrest and effect on your life are minimized.

Do I have to submit to field sobriety tests when asked by the police?

There is no legal requirement to submit to field sobriety tests (‘FSTs’). FSTs are physical performance tests usually requested by the police on the street after a traffic stop but PRIOR to your arrest. Examples of FSTs include the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, and finger to nose test. The FSTs requested by the officer on the street should always be refused since there is no penalty for refusing them. These tests are generally subjective and unreliable. Once an officer requests the performance of FST’s, they have most likely already decided that you will be placed under arrest. Any performance of FST’s will likely only strengthen the case against you.

What is the difference between the breath test on the street and the station?

The portable breath test (‘PBT’) on the street is another FST that is not required, and there is no penalty for refusing it. The results of the PBT test are inadmissible at trial. However, the device at the station is a more reliable machine known as a breathalyzer. Not only are the results admissible at trial, but a person’s license may be suspended for failing or refusing to take it. The length of the suspension will depend on whether it is your first or subsequent DUI. For a first offender, taking the test will result in a 6 month suspension, and a refusal will result in a one year suspension. It is important to remember that while the shorter suspension is enticing, taking the test usually results in chemical evidence unfavorable to the defendant.

If I submitted to a breathalyzer, is there any chance of winning?

If you submitted to a breath or blood test, the results may be thrown out because of faulty procedures used when the officer administered the test. Even devices used to measure blood alcohol content are not infallible. Furthermore, an experienced attorney will look at the basis of the stop to determine if there was a constitutional violation before any chemical tests were even administered.

Do I have to let a police officer search my home or car?

An officer may conduct a search or seizure if there is visual evidence of illegal conduct, such as a suspicious package that appears to be drugs. If the officer wants to conduct a search or seizure without any visual evidence, then you do not have to let an officer search your person, home, or vehicle unless they have a warrant with them that authorizes them to do so

Am I entitled to a phone call upon being arrested?

There is a law that states “[p]ersons who are arrested shall have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice and a member of their family by making a reasonable number of telephone calls or in any other reasonable manner. Such communication shall be permitted within a reasonable time after arrival at the first place of custody.” 725 ILCS 5/103‑3. Unfortunately, the controlling statute does not provide any remedy for people denied this right.

If I plead guilty, can I change my mind?

You must file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea within 30 days of sentencing. Even if you file the motion within 30 days, you must have a very good reason or your plea will not be withdrawn. For example, if you were under the influence of drugs at your plea, or if your attorney was incompetent, you may be allowed to withdraw your plea.

Can I pay an attorney using the money I posted in bond?

In Cook County, you may assign your lawyer the bond refund by signing a form called a Cash Bond Refund to Attorney Petition, often abbreviated as a CBR. If the bond exceeds what you have posted, the attorney should be able to return the unearned balance to you.

Free Consultation with a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have questions regarding your criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation at (312) 626-2871 or (847) 255-2100, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.