Especially if you have never been charged with a crime before, you may feel a lot of stress over being arrested. If the local prosecutor has charged you with a crime, you may be wondering if you are doomed and will have to accept a conviction on your record. No matter what kind of crime you are charged with, a conviction will go on your record, to remain there forever unless you are eligible for an expungement later. Any conviction could cause you problems, such as getting hired for certain jobs or being allowed to rent at certain locations. But there may be ways that you can avoid getting that conviction on your record.
If you have never been convicted of a crime before, you may want to see if you are eligible for a diversion program. With a diversion, you must meet certain requirements for a certain length of time, after which the case will be over and will not go on your record. Usually, the requirements include things like community service, restitution, and staying out of trouble during the diversion period. If you are arrested again during your diversion, the conviction may even go on your record automatically as part of the diversion agreement. If you successfully complete the program, though, the prosecutor will not be allowed to file the charges again at a later date, because the incident will really be over after the diversion period.
The Best Defense
Sometimes the only way to avoid a conviction is to go after the evidence presented by the prosecutor. Because they have the burden of proof, prosecutors must prove every element of every crime you are charged with. You have no duty or responsibility to offer anything to help them prove a criminal case against you. You can refuse to cooperate or make a statement, for the most part. If you have any questions about your responsibilities while you are under investigation, speak to your attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can be present with you during questioning or at other times, such as if officers are performing a search on your property. From the time you hire your defense attorney, your attorney will be working to tear down the case against you.
This is one of the ways that defense attorneys get many cases dismissed, especially driving and/or drug cases. In order to investigate you, an officer must have probable cause. You cannot be pulled over just because an officer thought you looked “shady” or suspicious. If the officer can prove that the officer did not have a good reason to pull you over or to search your property without a warrant, the courts will exclude all the information from the evidence and the prosecutor will not be allowed to use it. This usually destroys the case, because officers are basing the arrest on what they found during an illegal search.
Black Letter Law
Under Illinois law, it is only fair that anyone accused of a crime will be able to look at the law they are accused of violating. When it comes to criminal offenses, a prosecutor must be able to prove that your case meets every element of an offense before you can be convicted. Sometimes the prosecutor will simply charge you under the wrong law, but sometimes the prosecutor is unaware that the case simply doesn’t meet the legal burden.
It Wasn’t You/Alibi
Sometimes you are accused of a crime you could not have committed. When the alibi is airtight, such as when the defendant is in custody on another case at the time, it will be easy to prove. At other times, you may need to point at the person who actually committed the crime and/or present evidence that you were somewhere else.
Witnesses are notoriously unreliable, and studies have proven that they don’t know their own limitations. A witness may be very confident and very wrong at the same time. Just like everyone else, witnesses also have biases they don’t recognize in themselves. If your case is based on witness testimony, your attorney may be able to show discrepancies in the story from one telling to another.
Officers have to follow a lot of rules and procedures. Sometimes those rules and procedures are so important that, if you can prove that the officer made a variation during your arrest, you may be able to prove that the officer was mistaken. This is more common in areas like DUI law, where officers have to use specialized equipment that must be tested on a regular basis.
Knowing the Judge/Prosecutor
Illinois criminal defense attorneys who work in the same courtrooms day after day learn the habits and strategies of the judges and prosecutors. They know how to present evidence or even ask for a favor. When the judges and prosecutors trust your attorney’s skills and experience, they will listen more carefully to the defense being presented. As defense counsel, your attorney is representing your interests from the minute he or she walks into the courtroom.
In some ways, a trial is a structured show where you don’t know the ending. The prosecutor can make mistakes putting on the case, such as leaving out important elements. At that time, you can ask for a judgment on the evidence because of the prosecutor’s lapse. During a jury trial, it may come down to argument. Jurors evaluate evidence based on their own experience and may find in your client’s favor because of the circumstances of the case. For instance, someone charged with trespassing may have the property owner testify that the defendant did not have permission to be on the property. The defendant may bring a witness who testifies that he or she gave the defendant permission to be there.
There is a multitude of ways to beat a case, although they don’t always work. At Wolfe & Stec, we delve into the evidence on every case and look for any cracks in the prosecutor’s case. Even if the case is airtight, there may be other options that can help you, such as a diversion or a plea to a lesser charge. We have the experience and skills to help you get the best result on your case. Call us today if you have any questions!