Criminal FAQ


Everyone Deserves A Fair Day In Court

Trial lawyers with years of experience handling complex criminal and civil cases on behalf of clients throughout Illinois.

Answers To Common Questions About Criminal Charges And Their Defense

As a team of experienced attorneys who handle a great deal of Illinois criminal defense cases, we know that many people have questions about what their charges mean, how the criminal court system works and the legal options that are available to them. We are here to help. We offer a free consultation with our team so that you can get the answers you need to move forward. Call our Chicago office at 312-766-4223.

I’ve been stopped by the police. Am I required to answer any questions?

  • It is very important to be courteous and respectful toward police officers during any interaction, but this does not mean being completely forthcoming and cooperative. Your name and date of birth are okay to give out, but you shouldn’t provide any additional information before consulting an attorney.
  • You are under no obligation to answer any questions, but it is important you inform the police officer(s) in a polite and respectful manner that you refuse to answer any questions.
  • At any time when being questioned by an officer, you may ask him or her if you are allowed to leave. If you are not under arrest, you have the right to leave. If you are stopped by the police, contact our law firm. We handle all types of moving and traffic violations, including criminal charges such as a DUI.

What about if I’m driving?

  • If you are the driver of a vehicle pulled over by police, you are required to show proof of identification, insurance and registration. You are not required to answer any questions.

I’ve been arrested. What are my rights?

  • According to Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436), you are entitled to a set of rights, often referred to as Miranda rights.
  • First and foremost, you have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.

In what circumstances are police allowed to search my person, vehicle or home?

  • There are two very general types of searches done by law enforcement: warrantless searches and searches pursuant to a warrant.
  • For searches pursuant to a warrant, police must obtain a search warrant signed by a judge to search your person, vehicle or property. A search warrant will specify what may be searched, and only what is specifically listed may be searched. You have a right and should ask to be shown the search warrant.

When can an officer conduct a search without a warrant?

  • There are several exceptions to warrant requirements, and it is important you are aware of them.
    • Consent – an officer may search your property if you consent to it.
    • Incident to arrest – if you are arrested, the police may search areas immediately within arms reach, or your ‘wingspan.’ Probable cause to arrest must exist prior to the search, and the arrest must be a lawful arrest.
    • Plain view/feel – If an officer is in a place he or she has a right to be and observes evidence of a crime in plain view, the officer then has probable cause and can search.
  • Terry stop: In Illinois and across the U.S., a Terry stop allows the police to briefly detain a person based on reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity and pat them down for weapons for officer safety.

What is the criminal trial process?

  • Following an arrest, you will be brought in front of a judge for a bond hearing. This typically will happen within a day or so.
  • At this bond hearing, the judge will decide the amount of bond based on factors of the crime, the severity of the crime and the potential danger to society, and the defendant’s criminal background will be assessed.
  • Additionally, a judge will also look at mitigating factors are looked at, such as the defendant’s ties to the community, employment and general background. After this hearing, the following may occur:
    • Preliminary hearing/grand jury
    • Arraignment
    • Discovery process
    • Pretrial motions
    • Trial

What is bail and how is it decided?

  • Bail is the amount a judge sets for you to be released from jail following arrest while awaiting a court preceding. Typically, in Illinois, if a judge gives you a “D” bond, you are only required to post 10% of the bail amount given, and most of it will be refunded to you or whoever posts it at the conclusion of your case.
  • When a judge decides bail, there are certain risk factors taken into account. The judge typically looks at the crime and your criminal history to determine if you’re at risk of failing to appear to your next court date.

What is the standard of guilt in a criminal trial?

  • To prove guilt in a criminal trial the standard is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ The prosecution is given the burden of proof in the case and has to prove to a judge or a jury that the defendant is guilty without a reasonable doubt. The defense does not need to prove anything.

Was my encounter with the police recorded?

  • As of March of 2018, every Chicago police officer is required by law to be equipped with a body-worn camera and to have it turned on during certain interactions.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

  • Simply, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime than a felony. A misdemeanor is typically a crime punishable by a fine and/or 1 year or less of jail time. A felony is a crime punishable by more than a year in prison.
  • A felony conviction is not expungable and on your permanent record.

How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?

  • In Illinois, a criminal conviction will permanently be on your record. However, many misdemeanor offenses may be eligible for expungement or sealing. See our expungement page for additional information.

Will a misdemeanor conviction impact my ability to obtain a driver’s license?

  • As a general rule, a misdemeanor conviction will not impact your ability to obtain a driver’s license. However, there are exceptions to this rule, most of which involve a DUI conviction or other driver-related offenses.

Do I need an attorney for a misdemeanor charge in Illinois?

  • Without an attorney for any criminal charge, the legal process can be challenging to maneuver through and chances of success are significantly reduced. It is extremely advisable to consult an experienced attorney who is familiar with the process when facing any criminal charges.

Can felony charges be dropped?

  • It’s possible, but felony charges can only be dismissed by the state attorney or by a judge’s order.

Can a felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor?

  • Yes – there are many circumstances where a felony charge is reduced to a misdemeanor. The prosecutor is the one who decides what charges will be filed in a case, and if you have an attorney, they may be able to negotiate a plea deal and get the felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor.

Schedule A Free Consultation With Our Team Today

We know you have questions and need answers. At Shifrin Law Group, we are dedicated to providing personal service and the highest level of legal assistance. Call and speak with a member of our Chicago team: 312-766-4223. You can also connect online with our information request form. Our founding attorney speaks fluent Russian, making us capable of serving you in either the English or Russian language.