If you have been charged with a crime in or around Chicago, you might wonder if you need a lawyer. If it’s worth it to hire someone to defend your or if you’re better off just taking your chances and hoping for the best.
Do not make that mistake.
Not getting an attorney to represent you is exactly what law enforcement officials want. Why? Because it gives them more control over what happens to you.
This is not something you want, because not matter how much they pretend otherwise, they are not your friends, and they do not have your best interests in mind. Their job is simple: secure the conviction.
Without a good criminal lawyer by your side, their job is a lot easier.
Really, though, there are two simple reasons why it’s worth it for you to get a defense attorney:
- Penalties can be incredibly severe.
- A good lawyer can drastically increase your chances at a positive outcome.
Let’s look at both of those reasons in more detail.
The Penalties of a Criminal Conviction in Illinois
Criminal charges in Chicago are a frightening prospect, and for good reason. Conviction for even minor offenses can result in lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. Moreover, you are left with long-term consequences such as the restriction of certain rights and privileges, and a criminal record that will compromise housing, employment, and child custody prospects, among other things.
Common misdemeanor-level offenses include DUIs, assault and battery, cannabis possession, disorderly conduct, and alcohol consumption by a minor.
The maximum criminal penalties for misdemeanors are as follows:
- Class A: 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine
- Class B: 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine
- Class C: 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine
Felony-level offenses can include the above crimes if aggravating factors are present, drug possession and/or trafficking, sex crimes, larceny and fraud.
Criminal penalties for felonies are as follows:
- Class X: 6-60 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine
- Class 1: 4-30 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine
- Class 2: 3-14 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine
- Class 3: 2-10 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine
- Class 4: 1-6 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Unfortunately, the consequences of a criminal conviction do not stop at the above criminal penalties. Long after your sentence is served, you will be left with a criminal record that will come back to haunt you. You may also face restrictions of certain privileges, such as firearm possession.
Nearly all employers and potential landlords conduct a criminal background check for prospective employees or tenants. A criminal record could therefore compromise your ability to find employment, advance your career, or even find a place to live. Criminal records are also problematic in loan applications, and potentially in determining child custody.
How a Chicago Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are facing criminal charges, you must be proactive in fighting back. Your first step should be to get in touch with a knowledgeable Chicago criminal defense attorney, who can make sure that your rights are protected and help you fight for the best possible outcome for your case.
The criminal justice system in our state is very difficult to navigate. A good Chicago defense attorney will be familiar with the system, and will know how to use it to your advantage. He or she will leverage their knowledge and skill to ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
Beyond whatever sentence you might or might not receive, you’re practically guaranteed to have a criminal record. This is something that will come back to haunt you in many aspects of your life. If you have pre-existing convictions, you are already well aware of the consequences of a criminal record.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, a defense attorney may be able to get your record sealed or expunged, meaning that it will not be accessible to most future employers, and may not be admissible in other legal matters such as child custody. Record sealing and expungement will help you to move on from your past mistakes for a happier and more productive future.
Selecting the Right Chicago Criminal Lawyer
If you are currently facing criminal charges, you are naturally very concerned about your future, and want to make the best decisions moving forward. Selecting the right defense attorney for your case is one of the most critical steps, and can be an extremely intimidating process. Rest assured that you are not alone in feeling this way.
Generally, you want to select a lawyer with a proven track record of success in cases similar to yours. Take a look at past case results and client reviews, which are provided on the websites of most reputable law firms. This will help you determine whether a potential attorney is right for your case.
It may be tempting to select someone who has previously represented a family member or friend. While advice from trusted loved ones can be helpful in this often-intimidating process, keep in mind that you still need a lawyer with the appropriate background to get the best results. Do your homework, then talk to them to make sure you feel comfortable working with them.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.