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Should I Agree to a Plea Bargain?

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Most cases in the Illinois criminal justice system do not end in a trial. Instead, in most cases a criminal defendant accepts a plea deal, also called a plea bargain. Before you decide if a plea bargain is right for you, it is important to understand how they work.

The Criminal Justice Process

Pleas are used by prosecutors to help keep the criminal justice system moving. Often, a defendant will receive a plea offer early on in the case. One of the first formal steps in a criminal case is the arraignment. This is a court hearing where the defendant is told what he or she is being charged with and where the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or another legally acceptable plea.

Many criminal defendants have been offered plea deals prior to arraignment. This means they have the chance to plead guilty to a specific offense in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing to drop other charges or in exchange for the prosecutor recommending a lighter sentence. However, even if a not guilty plea is entered at the arraignment, there is often still a chance for a plea deal at a later point before trial.

Reasons to Consider Accepting a Plea Offer

For some criminal defendants, a plea offer is a good deal. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, and you have a chance to have your charges reduced or in some cases have some charges dismissed, you may want to accept the plea deal. The basic factors you need to consider when evaluating a plea deal include:

• Are you guilty of the crime?

• What would the likely result of a trial be?

• Can you avoid jail or prison time by accepting a deal?

• Can you lessen the time you have to spend in jail or prison by accepting a deal?

• What will be the other consequences in your life of a criminal conviction?

Reasons to Consider Rejecting a Plea Offer

In most cases, it is not in your best interest to accept a plea deal. The prosecutor has a high burden of proof to prove to a judge or jury that you are guilty of a crime. If after consulting with your lawyer, you believe that the evidence against you will not be enough to prove your guilt, it will be in your best interest to reject a plea deal. It is up to the State to prove you guilty, as a defendant, you are not required to prove anything.

Other reasons to consider rejecting a plea deal include:

• You are not guilty;

• The State has a weak case against you;

• The plea deal does not lessen the amount of time you are likely to face in jail or prison; or

Deciding whether or not to accept a plea deal is a difficult personal decision that should not be made lightly. You will need to consult with your lawyer and spend time thinking about all of the possible outcomes of going to trial or in choosing to accept a plea deal. If you have been charged with a crime, you need to speak with a skilled Joliet criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call 815-740-4025 to discuss your case with a free, no-obligation consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction in Illinois

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When some people hear that a crime is a misdemeanor, they automatically assume the crime is not a big deal. While it is true that the punishment for a misdemeanor is usually much less serious than for a felony, a single misdemeanor can still disrupt your entire life.

Understanding Probation and Conditional Discharge

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is one year in jail. However, many people who are convicted of a misdemeanor will serve little, if any, jail time. Instead, most will be sentenced to a period of conditional discharge or in some situations, probation. While probation is often preferable to jail time, it is not easy. Depending on the crime for which you are convicted, there will be a set of conditions that you must follow.

Common probation conditions vary based on the offense and can include:

• Paying fines;

• Not committing another crime;

• Submitting to random drug tests;

• Avoiding establishments where alcohol is served;

• No contact with the victim;

• Regular reports to a probation officer; and

• Not leaving the state without permission.

If you fail to obey the conditions of probation, you can be sent to jail, or you can have probation extended. It is possible to be on probation much longer than if you had just served a short jail sentence. You also have fewer rights while on probation.

Background Check Concerns

Once you have been convicted of a crime, even a misdemeanor, it stays on your record forever, unless you qualify to have it removed. This means that anytime you have to have a background check, your conviction will show up. Depending on the conviction, you could be fired from your job for having a conviction. It can difficult to get a new job, find an apartment, get a professional license, or even volunteer at your child’s school once you have a criminal record. Your record can change the way law enforcement interacts with you in the future and make it more difficult if you get into criminal trouble again in the future.

Expungement and Sealing

For some misdemeanors, you may be able to eventually have them removed from your record—or at least sealed so that they do not show up on pre-employment background checks. You will need to ask a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you qualify to have your records sealed or the arrest record expunged. If you do qualify, you will be able to have a “clean” record.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor you need to speak with a skilled Will County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not talk to anyone else about your case until you have met with a lawyer. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free, confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Three Ways to Practice Responsible Firearm Ownership in Illinois

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Guns have been a hot topic in recent years in American politics. According to the Gun Violence Archive , which is a nonprofit organization that provides information about gun violence, there have been 256 mass shootings—defined as four or more people being shot or killed during a single incident—in the United States since January 1, 2018. With the rise of mass shootings in the U.S., many people have been reconsidering the validity of the Second Amendment, which guarantees American citizens the right to bear arms, but many people argue that gun owners just need to be more sensible about owning their firearms .

While owning guns is an American privilege, you can still get into trouble if you are irresponsible with your firearms. By following these three tips for responsible ownership, you can lower the chance you can reduce your chances of being subject to criminal gun charges.

#1: Educate Yourself

One of the first things you should do if you have wish to obtain a firearm ownership identification card (FOID) is educating yourself on proper firearm usage. There are many classes available covering topics such as safety, disassembly and reassembly and basic usage. Taking one or more of these classes will help you practice proper usage and safety.

#2: Practice Safe Handling
There are many ways you can practice handling or using a gun safely. Always treat a gun as if it is loaded, even if you think it is not. Safety is paramount when it comes to firearms. Never point a gun in the direction of someone else. Keep the gun pointed down or away from others until you are ready to safely shoot. Never have your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot. Your finger should rest alongside the frame of the gun and outside of the trigger guard if you are holding the gun.

#3: Store Guns Securely

If you own a gun, that gun is your responsibility , even when it is being stored. You are responsible for ensuring that your firearms are stored securely and safely, and that you or other authorized users are the only ones who can access the firearms. Guns should always be stored unloaded, ideally with a gun-locking device on the firearm. You should also invest in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case to keep your firearms when they are not in your physical possession. Ammunition should always be stored in a separate place from the firearms.

Are You Facing Criminal Gun Charges?

You could follow all of the above tips on how to be a responsible gun owner and still be facing criminal charges. Gun charges are taken very seriously these days, which is why you should contact a Joliet gun charges defense attorney , even before you are actually charged. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba can help you navigate your situation and avoid a gun charge at all costs. To discuss your case, call the office at 815-740-4025 and set up a free consultation.

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