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December 15, 2017

Criminal Law Process for a Felony in Illinois

Criminal Law Process for a Felony in Illinois O'Dekirk, Allred & Associates JolietHere at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet, we are very familiar with the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois and have helped numerous clients through each step. If you find yourself facing any type of felony charges, including a DUI or drug offense, we can provide you with aggressive representation to ensure the most positive outcomes.

Before we get to the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois, let’s look at the three basic kinds of crime in the state.

After an Arrest

The police officers that were involved in an arrest must communicate with the State’s Attorney Felony Review office. Police cannot independently charge someone with a felony. The decision to charge someone with a felony rests with the State’s Attorney who gathers information from the officer. The defendant’s criminal history is reviewed and the defendant may be interviewed in an effort to decide if felony charges are appropriate.

The State’s Attorney may reject the charges if there is insufficient evidence or if the circumstances are inappropriate for a felony charge. If the State’s Attorney accepts the charges, the police will process the defendant and the defendant will be held for a bond hearing. If the felony charges are rejected, police can still file misdemeanor charges which they do have full authority over.

Bond Hearing

Within 72 hours of an arrest, a bond hearing is generally held. The bond court judge is presented with basic facts and charges for the case, as well as the defendant’s criminal history. The defendant’s attorney will make a presentation on behalf of the defendant. After both sides have presented, the judge will make a determination about the terms of release.

Preliminary Hearing

The next step in the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois is a preliminary hearing. A judge will be presented with evidence to determine that a felony crime was committed and to determine if there is reason to believe the defendant was responsible for committing it.

The state will present witnesses and the defense can ask these witnesses questions as well. The standard for a preliminary hearing is much lower than at the trial. At this point, a judge is simply determining that there is a likelihood that the defendant committed the crime. If the judge determines that there is no probable cause, the defendant wins the hearing and the case is generally dismissed.

The Indictment

Many cases are presented to a grand jury instead of having a preliminary hearing. The state can charge a person with a felony by presenting evidence to a grand jury. A grand jury is composed of 18 people from the community. The proceedings are conducted in secret and the defense cannot cross-examine the witnesses. The majority of felony cases go through a grand jury process. The grand jury is responsible for determining the same issues as a judge at a preliminary hearing.

If the grand jury believes a crime was likely committed by the defendant, an indictment will be issued which is the official document accusing a person of a crime. With an indictment, a warrant will be issued if the defendant is not already in custody. The State’s attorney can bring cases to the grand jury even if the charges were originally dropped at the preliminary hearing.

Trial Court

Following the indictment or preliminary hearing, the case goes to the county’s Chief Judge. The Chief Judge is responsible for assigning the case to another judge in the county using a prescribed random process.

Arraignment

After assignment to a specific trial court, the defendant is formally arraigned. This is where the charges can be formally read. This is often waived to save time. The defendant’s lawyers already know what the felony charges are. More importantly, at an arraignment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is formally entered.

Discovery

During this part of the process, the state is responsible for sharing all evidence. The state is required to share specific types of evidence in its possession with the defense, particularly any evidence that has major implications of guilt or innocence for the defendant.

Motions

Motions are requests for something specific to be done. For example, the defense can submit a motion to quash arrest, motion to suppress a statement, or motion to suppress evidence to the judge during the pre-trial process. The decision of the judge on these motions can have a very large impact on the outcome of a trial.

Plea Agreement

If the State’s attorney, the defense attorney, and the defendant agree on a penalty, a plea agreement will avoid a trial and it is often the way that many cases conclude. In the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois, the judge also participates in the plea agreement if the defendant agrees in open court. The defendant must agree to it because the judge will often learn things that would not be known otherwise to the judge. If a plea is agreed to without the judge, the judge has the ability to impose a different penalty than the one agreed to by the defense and the state.

Trial

If the case is not settled, it will continue to either a jury trial or bench trial (which is a trial by a judge). The defendant will be found guilty or not guilty of their felony crime and based on the results, the judge will impose the penalty.

The criminal law process for a felony in Illinois can be complicated. If you need a defense attorney with experience, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet. Our attorneys can help you through each step and use their experience to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

November 17, 2017

Common Questions About Child Custody in Illinois

Common Questions About Child Custody in Illinois O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates JolietHere at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates here in Joliet, we wanted to cover common questions about child custody in Illinois. Child custody can be fraught with concern and frustration. Getting answers to common questions can help you understand custody and can help allay concerns and fears about custody issues.

Who gets custody?

When a court must determine who gets custody, they usually use “the best interest of the child” as their standard. There are a number of factors when the court weighs custody issues. When a court weighs factors, no one factor is a controlling factor and not all factors will have the same significance. Some of the factors that go into determining parental custody include:

Joint Custody and Sole Custody—How are They Different?

This is one of the more common questions about child custody in Illinois. When parents are able to cooperate, communicate, and work together for the sake of their child, joint custody may be awarded. In joint custody, parents share decision making for major decisions that include healthcare, education, and religion.

A Joint Parenting Agreement is drawn up when joint custody is awarded. The agreement outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities for their child and determines the residence arrangements. The agreement also specifies what should be done when there is a disagreement about a parenting decision.

If one parent is not suitable or able to be appropriately responsible for parenting decisions or if the parents cannot cooperate effectively with each other, sole custody may be awarded to one parent. Sole custody designates one parent as having sole authority for the child’s major life decisions.

Sole custody does not mean one parent no longer gets visitation rights and joint custody does not mean that the parents split visitation rights equally. There is a visitation schedule that is either court ordered or agreed to by both parents. Visitation schedules may dictate that one parent has most of the time or that the time is shared to varying degrees. Regardless of sole or joint custody, both parents have a right to school, medical, dental, and child care records.

Joint Custody and Child Support—Does Custody Determine Support?

The parents’ financial resources and the needs of the children are the main factors in determining child support but other factors such as parenting time do play a role in determining each parent’s financial responsibilities. Parents may have joint custody and share time equally, but one parent may be expected to pay more.

Can You Prevent Visitation if Child Support has Not Been Paid?

You cannot refuse visitation based on whether or not child support has been paid. At the same time, you cannot refuse to pay support if you are prevented from seeing your child. Denying visitation or child support can result in being found in contempt of court.

Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Another of the common questions about child custody in Illinois, children in the state do not get to outright choose to reside with one parent. The child’s wishes can be taken into consideration as one factor in determining where a child will reside.

What Happens when Parents Cannot Agree on Custody?

When parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the court will sometimes mandate mediation. A mediator is trained and appointed by the court as a neutral third party. Mediators work to help parents reach an agreement on custody. Mediation discussions remain confidential regardless of the outcome and if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the issue will proceed to trial.

Sometimes, when parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (custody evaluator) to assist the court in making a determination about custody, based on the best interest of the child. The custody evaluator’s determinations will be taken into consideration when the custody issue goes to trial and the judge makes a determination.

Can I Increase My Chances of a Larger Custody Agreement?

An experienced family attorney, such as O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet, can advise you about ways to increase your chances at a better outcome and answer your questions about child custody in Illinois.

Here is an additional list to help you when proceeding with a divorce and wanting to achieve your goals in regards to the time you wish to be granted with your children.

What Should I do at a Custody Trial?

In a custody trial, it is important to present yourself in the best possible light. Be sure to dress professionally and exhibit good conduct at all times. Be calm during all testimony and try to maintain neutral facial expressions – no matter what. It is important to avoid letting the judge see expressions of anger or frustration. Let your attorney object when objections are needed. If you need to tell your attorney something in court, write a note. It is important to conduct yourself professionally at all times in court.

If you have additional common questions about child custody in Illinois, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet. We can help you with your custody issues and work diligently on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

October 15, 2017

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Why You Need a Real Estate LawyerToday, O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet discusses why you need a real estate lawyer. We know that buying a home is one of life’s most significant purchases, involving a lot of paperwork and various legal issues. Even as a seller, it’s not as easy as finding a buyer and collecting a check. Everything must be handled systematically, contracts need to be read and understood, and if anything goes awry, both buyers and sellers need legal protection.

Let’s break down why you need a real estate lawyer even further…

Purchasing a Home

For the majority of home purchases, a seller contracts with a real estate agent, usually in writing. This contract is called a brokerage contract. When the agent (also referred to as the broker) locates a buyer, any negotiations that need to take place are done through the broker because the broker is responsible for acting as an intermediary between the two parties, the buyer and seller.

Once the parties have reached an informal agreement on an offer, a formal written contract is drawn up and signed. The buyer must then pay or obtain financing if they don’t have it already. A title search, inspection, and appraisal are performed. Eventually, the buyer takes possession of the property and the seller receives the agreed upon amount of money.

Like any purchase, there can be issues. For example, some houses, like cars, can turn out to be lemons. This is when and why you need a real estate lawyer.

Unclear Terms

A real estate lawyer will help you avoid problematic terms in the sale of your home. Some of these problems begin with the brokerage agreements. Many real estate agents use standard forms. These forms can lead to problems. For example, if there is no agreement to the contrary, the seller may have to pay a brokerage commission, even if the property doesn’t sell. Also, the seller can end up paying more than one commission.

Using a residential real estate attorney can help ensure that particular options are available to you as either the buyer or the seller. A real estate lawyer can ensure that a seller or buyer has the right to negotiate on his or her behalf. Lawyers can also help if there are issues and the seller needs to withdraw from the contract.

There are a number of laws and issues that a real estate lawyer can prevent and they can help prepare buyers and sellers. Real estate lawyers also ensure that their clients are better aware of what their contracts mean and whether it is really in their best interest to sign. If you need a real estate lawyer, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet.

Consultations

Even if one not necessary during negotiations, the buyer or seller may want to consult with a real estate lawyer regarding the tax consequences of the sale. Income tax for the seller, in particular, can be substantial. A great reason why you need a real estate lawyer prior to the sale is to learn about and take advantage of various tax provisions to lessen the impact.

Purchase Agreement

The single most important document in a property sale is the purchase agreement. Using a real estate lawyer to step through the purchase agreement for the sale can help offer an opportunity to tailor the agreement to better address the needs of the parties involved.

Here are some common examples of things a real estate lawyer can help determine:

Title Search

Once a purchase agreement is signed, it is appropriate to determine the title for the property. It is important that both the buyer and the financial institution offering to finance are satisfied with the results of the title search. It is also important to ensure that the legal description is accurate and that there are no issues with prior or adjoining owners.

Review of the title and ensuring the accuracy of the legal description can be confusing which is why you need a real estate lawyer. They can help determine if there are any exceptions to the title or whether there are potential problems.

Zoning

A real estate lawyer can also ensure that you are aware of any zoning issues. The title search does not include any zoning information. If there are future plans for improvement, the real estate lawyer can help determine whether any zoning ordinances would be violated.

Closing

Even the finish line can be problematic. All closing papers must be prepared, as well as the sale transaction. A real estate lawyer can help a buyer or seller with all of the closing paperwork and ensure that everything is appropriate and properly executed.

It is also helpful to have a real estate lawyer present just in case any last minute disputes arise. If other parties involved have a lawyer present and you are without one, your interests could be unprotected.

As you can see, there are many reasons why you need a real estate lawyer, so make sure your interests are protected during one of biggest events in your life. At O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet, we want to make sure that the buying or selling of your home is a positive experience. Let us guide you through the process and provide peace of mind.

September 15, 2017

What is a Personal Injury Case Worth?

What is a Personal Injury Case WorthAt O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet, our clients often ask what is a personal injury case worth? In calculating what your case may be worth, there is a great deal that must be considered in damages: what have your injuries actually cost, both physically and mentally. Damages should also consider if the defendant needs to pay enough that the payment is a form of punishment, particularly in cases where such an injury or accident may occur again or is egregious in nature.

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff is the injured person. Money damages are generally paid by the person or company (the defendant and/or their insurer) who is legally responsible for the accident or injury. Damages can be settled out of court by negotiating a settlement. Such negotiations can involve the parties, their attorneys, and the insurance companies, for example. If a negotiation is not reached or agreed to by all parties, the case may go to trial where a jury or a judge may award damages.

Personal Injury Cases and Compensatory Damages

When it comes to what is a personal injury case worth, most of the damages are considered to be compensatory. This means that the award is supposed to compensate for whatever was lost during the injury or accident. Compensatory damages are intended to use money to make the injured party “whole” from a monetary standpoint. A dollar figure is intended to match the damage from the accident or injury. This can be straightforward for some compensatory damages.

For example, the cost of medical bills or property damage can be fairly easy to calculate. Other damages, such as pain and suffering, can be much more difficult to quantify. For example, if a plaintiff can no longer enjoy participating in his favorite hobby as a result of injury, finding a monetary amount to compensate can be more difficult.

Types of Compensatory Damages

There are different kinds of compensatory damages that are frequently involved in personal injury cases which can make it difficult to determine what is a personal injury case worth. Here are some of the more common types of damages that are awarded these types of cases.

Medical Treatment: Personal injury awards almost always cover the cost of medical treatment and care associated with the injury or accident. Medical treatment covers the treatment you have already received, as well as the estimated cost of all medical care and treatment expected or needed in the future as a result of your injury or accident.

Income: The accident or injury may have affected your ability to make money in the future and this loss can be calculated in the total compensatory damages. This is called compensation for a loss of earning capacity. Additionally, the loss of wages and salary that already occurred as a result of the accident or injury should be included.

Property Loss: Physical property that was damaged or destroyed as a result of the accident should be included in your compensatory damages. You should be able to be included the fair market value of the property that was damaged or destroyed.

Pain and Suffering: The physical discomfort caused by the accident or injury, as well as emotional stress that continues as a result of the accident, are all considered to be a part of pain and suffering. This component also takes likely future pain and suffering into account when determining the award and the defendant’s negligence.

Emotional Distress: This type of punitive damage is often involved in more severe accidents or injuries. This is intended to compensate for anxiety, fear, sleep loss or other emotional impacts that have occurred as a result of the accident. Emotional distress may be a part of pain and suffering in some states. Additionally, emotional distress can also include depression, anger, loss of appetite, mood swings, lack of energy, and sexual dysfunction.

Loss of Enjoyment: If you can no longer enjoy day-to-day activities such as exercise, hobbies, and other pursuits, you may be entitled to this type of personal injury award.

Loss of Consortium: Often this type of personal injury award is awarded because the injury or accident has impacted the plaintiff’s relationships, often the plaintiff’s spouse. Sometimes there is a loss of companionship or the couple’s sexual relationship has been altered. Sometimes “loss of consortium” in some states considers family members separately, so these damages can be awarded to family members that are affected not necessarily the injured party.

Damages Can Be Affected by Plaintiff

Plaintiffs in personal injury cases need to be aware that their role in the accident or possible inaction following injury can reduce the amount of damages awarded, and affect what is a personal injury case worth.

Comparative Negligence: If you were even partially responsible for your accident or injury, it is likely that your damage award will be lower as a reflection of your role. Usually, this is because many states have a standard for “comparative negligence” that looks at a plaintiff’s degree of fault in personal injury award decisions.

Contributory Negligence: There are a few states that use contributory negligence in personal injury lawsuits. Contributory negligence means that if you are even partially to blame for an accident, you may not be entitled to any compensation at all.

Failure to Mitigate Damages: Many states expect that a plaintiff will take reasonable steps to minimize the harm caused by an accident. For example, if a plaintiff fails to seek medical attention and this failure causes their injury to be worse, the award for damages may be significantly less. So if you have been injured in an accident, it will be important to make sure that you are receiving appropriate medical treatment both so that you take care of your health, but also to protect your ability to receive damages.

If you have been injured in an accident and are considering pursuing a personal injury case, contact us at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet to discuss what is a personal injury case worth. We can help you determine whether to pursue legal action and help you determine how much of an award we can help you pursue.

 


Blogs and articles by O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC are for educational purposes only and to give you a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice or be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed, professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction.

Use all blogs and articles at your own risk. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. These materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content of this site or for damages arising from the use or performance of this site under any circumstances.

By reading our blog and articles you also understand that there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC.

August 16, 2017

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Illinois?

Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in IllinoisDo you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois? While self-representation is an option, we at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet do not recommend it. In fact, the overwhelming majority of defendants in criminal cases choose to be represented by a lawyer, particularly if there is a possibility of jail or prison. While it can be difficult to obtain good statistics, experts estimate that less than 1% of defendants choose self-representation and there are a number of important reasons why.

Legal Inexperience

While it may be tempting for a person to defend his or herself, self-representation can have severe drawbacks. Though law books contain a great deal of information, there is a lot to be gained from the actual time spent defending people in various cases and situations. Building a solid criminal defense comes from a comprehensive understanding of the written law, as well as the realities and actualities of the Illinois criminal justice system. The actual practice of criminal law can be quite very different than the knowledge offered in books.

Prosecutorial Discretion

When it comes to do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, a very good reason can be found by examining the power of a prosecutor. Their role determines much of what happens in a criminal case. Though from an average person’s view, there may only be one criminal act involved in a case, a prosecutor can charge a defendant with a number of crimes stemming from one act. The reasons for multiple charges ranging in severity can vary based on the merits of the case. The defense for a set of charges can become far more complicated and confusing to the uninitiated.

Whether you’re facing a felony or even a misdemeanor, having an experienced defense lawyer, like the ones we have at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet, can be an immense asset when it comes to facing harsh punishments like prison.

Novice v. Experience

Prosecutors have honed their legal abilities over time, both in and out of the courtroom. A prosecutor is not generally going to make things easy for a pro se defendant. Prosecutors will take full advantage of a novice in the courtroom because they want to win their cases regardless of who is performing the defense. They will use procedures and courtroom technicalities to trip up pro se defendants.

Prosecutors also have a great deal of experience with various defense strategies and they are well aware of how to effectively deal with any strategy a novice will use in the courtroom. Pro se defendants will generally be outmatched in courtroom experience, which can be not only detrimental but also costly in terms of outcomes. If you’re wondering do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, just think about facing an experienced and winning prosecutor in the courtroom.

The Power of Elections

Prosecutors and judges are elected officials whose records become the target of opponents in every election. The politics of these positions can play a huge role in how things play out in the courtroom. Prosecutors and judges are expected to be tough on crimes such as drug offenses and DUI cases. It is naïve to think that such pressures will not have an impact on how cases will be tried and prosecuted.

A lawyer who is knowledgeable of the local political scene will be able to better navigate the system to the benefit of the defendant. Someone who is self-representing will rarely have any level of knowledge of the role of politics in the particulars of their case.

How Will an Attorney Help?

No matter how well educated or smart a person is, when deciding do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, remember that the criminal justice system is much too complicated for even the smartest among us to effectively represent ourselves. Additionally, defense lawyers:

Personally Invested

When deciding do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, remember that as a defendant, you’re going to have a personal stake in all the courtroom proceedings. This high level of personal and emotional investment can sometimes cloud your judgment. Having an impartial and professional criminal defense lawyer can help keep the strategies and responses clear and effective, something that cannot always be achieved in pro se defenses.

After the Trial

If your defense attorney fails to properly defend you, this can be used to appeal your case or have a conviction reversed. People who choose to self-represent cannot use this argument. Though they may have made mistakes in their defense, the law does not allow them to use their own poor performance as a reason to re-examine the case.

Do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois? Ultimately, the short answer is yes. We at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet can help if you or someone you know needs a defense lawyer. We have experience with criminal trials and can get you the level of defense you need and deserve.

 


Disclaimer: Blogs and articles by O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC are for educational purposes only and to give you a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice or be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed, professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction.

Use all blogs and articles at your own risk. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. These materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content of this site or for damages arising from the use or performance of this site under any circumstances.

By reading our blog and articles you also understand that there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and O'Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC.

 

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