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State's Attorney

Questions:

Answers:

What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Crime?

You should report the crime as soon as possible to the law enforcement agency that serves the geographic area where the crime is committed.

What Happens Next?

If the criminal offender is apprehended or his whereabouts are determined, the police will make an arrest or submit a report to the State's Attorney's Office for review and consideration.

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How Does The State's Attorney's Office Decide Whether To File Charges?

The State's Attorney's Office has complete and sole discretion in the charging process. The State's Attorney and the Assistant State's Attorneys review police reports to determine whether a criminal offense has been committed and whether the crime may be proved in court. There must be substantial evidence sufficient to convict the accused before the State's Attorney's Office will subject someone to a criminal prosecution. Many times there is no question that the law has been violated, but charges are not filed because the proof or evidence is lacking. The State's Attorney will work with the police and crime victim to assure that a complete investigation has been done. If there is still insufficient evidence or proof, the charge cannot be filed and the State's Attorney's Office will notify the victim and police that a decision not to prosecute has been made. This closes the case unless new information is received.

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What If Charges Are Filed?

If the accused is arrested and charges are filed, he or she will soon appear in court for a first appearance. The judge will set bond and advise the accused, known as the defendant, of the charge(s) against him or her. The defendant will be advised of his or her constitutional rights. In traffic and misdemeanor cases, the cause will be continued for trial or plea. In felony offenses, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled, usually for a date within thirty days after the first appearance.
Victims will be notified of the charges being filed and what has happened in court by the State's Attorney's Victim Assistant. Victims and witnesses need not be present at the first appearance.
Most defendants post bond and are released from custody pending further proceedings. Those who are unable to post bond, remain in custody.

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When Will I Be Called To Appear As A Witness?

In traffic and misdemeanor cases, the victims and witnesses normally need only appear in court at the trial. In felony cases, the victims sometimes will be called to testify at the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is not a trial, but is held in felony cases to determine whether probable cause that a crime has been committed exists and that there is reason to believe that the defendant committed the crime. The preliminary hearing is conducted before a judge sitting without a jury. If probable cause is established, the case proceeds to trial or plea. If no probable cause is found, the case is dismissed.
Victims and witnesses are sometimes called upon to testify in cases where pretrial motions are filed. These motions usually deal with technical legal issues.

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Will There Always Be A Trial?

No, in many cases the defendant decides to plead guilty and no trial is held. However, victims and witnesses may sometimes be called upon to testify about the crime at a sentencing hearing conducted before a judge sitting without a jury.

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Are All Trials By Jury?

No, a defendant has a choice between having the case heard before a judge and by a jury, which is called a "jury trial", or a trial by a judge alone called a "bench trial". The choice is the defendant's and the State's Attorney has no choice in the type of trial.

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What Happens After A Defendant Is Convicted At Trial Or Pleads Guilty?

Once convicted, the defendant is required to be sentenced. Sentencing the defendant is the responsibility of a judge. A judge has many alternatives in determining a just and proper sentence, according to statutory guidelines. The judge will ask the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney for recommendations, but the judge alone decides the final sentence. Many times in very serious cases, the judge will order the probation department to prepare a report known as a pre-sentence investigation report. This report is used to provide background about the defendant. The probation officer will contact the victim in the case to gather information for the report.
The State's Attorney's Office has a staff person called the Victim/Witness Assistant. This person's job is to notify victims and witnesses about the progress of the case in which they are involved. The Victim/Witness Assistant is also available to answer questions and assist victims and witnesses in understanding the many phases of a criminal case. 

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Do I Need An Attorney?

The State's Attorney and Assistant State's Attorneys are responsible for prosecuting criminal cases. They represent the People of the State of Illinois and the interests of individual crime victims because criminal offenses are committed not only against a particular individual, but also against society or the State. Sometimes, if a crime victim has suffered personal injuries or a large amount of property loss, the victim may wish to consult a private attorney concerning recovery in a civil suit separate from the criminal case.

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How Will I Be Notified About The Case?

Victims and witnesses are notified by telephone and mail about general details. When court appearances are required, victims and witnesses will receive a subpoena which may be delivered in person by a deputy sheriff. The subpoena is a formal document requiring the person named on its face to appear in court. Always advise the State's Attorney's Office if you move or change your phone number. Your case could be dismissed by the Court if we can't find you.

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Will I Have To Take Off From Work To Appear In Court?

All trials are usually held between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M. Monday through Friday. If you are employed during these periods, you will have to miss work to attend court. Your employer cannot legally discharge, punish, or threaten you for attending a criminal proceeding when you have been subpoenaed. Show your employer your subpoena prior to your absence from work.

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How Will I Get To The Courthouse In Whiteside?

You are expected to provide your own transportation. However, if you are unable to arrange for a ride, call the Victim/ Witness Assistant and arrangements can be made in most cases.

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What If I Am Threatened In Connection With The Case?

Anyone who seeks to threaten or attempts to coerce you about the case may be committing a criminal offense. Immediately report any threat, coercion, or bribe attempt to the police and request that an investigation be conducted and that a report be filed with the State's Attorney's Office.

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What If The Defense Attorney Or The Defendant Contacts Me About The Case?

The defense attorney or defendant have a right to ask to interview you and discuss the case. However, you do not have to talk to them if you choose not to do so. If you would feel more comfortable discussing the matter in the presence of the State's Attorney or Assistant handling the case, call the Victim/Witmess Assistant before agreeing to an interview.
A representative of this office will be happy to attend with you at your request. You should not sign anything without speaking first with the prosecutor handling your case.

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How Do I Get Items Held As Evidence Returned To Me?

The State's Attorney's Office must authorize release before items held as evidence may be returned. Most evidence is held by the police department that handled the case and will be returned by that department. In all cases, the property will be returned as soon as possible. Unfortunately, some property must be held until after trial or until the defendant pleads guilty. Contact the Victim/Witness Assistant about the release of your property.

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Will I Receive Restitution Or Compensation For Property Loss and Injuries?

If the defendant is convicted, the judge may order, as part of the sentence, that the defendant pay restitution to the victim. Restitution, if ordered, will cover only expenses that the victim has sustained as a direct result of the crime. The problem in securing restitution is that many defendants have no ability to pay restitution or are sentenced to prison where there is no likelihood that they will send money to the victim.
The State's Attorney will always try to seek restitution if there is some hope of it being paid. However, it is up to the sentencing judge to determine the amount and to order payment.
When restitution is ordered, payment is generally spread out over several months and payments are made through the Circuit Clerks Office.
Injuries suffered as a result of certain crimes are recoverable through the Victim's Compensation Act.
If you sustain a physical injury (no property loss is considered) that results in $200.00 or more of expenses and the injury was from certain violent crimes, you may file a claim with the Illinois Attorney General's Office under the Victim's Compensation Act.
The State's Attorney's Victim/Witness Assistant can assist you in processing a claim.

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Will I Be Notified Of What Happens To The Defendant In A Case Where I Am The Victim?

All victims will be notified of the final disposition or end result of a case in which they are involved. Please feel free to contact us.

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What If I Need More Information Or A Question Answered?

Please call the State's Attorney's Office and ask for the Victim/Witness Assistant.

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