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Posted by on in Criminal Defense

Chicago IL criminal defense attorneyWhen you have been charged with a crime and your case is set for trial, you and your attorney will need to decide if you are going to testify on your own behalf. This decision will need to take into account a variety of ethical and strategic considerations, including the nature and severity of the crimes for which you have been charged. Deciding to testify in a murder trial, for example, is much different from deciding to testify in a trial for theft or burglary. As you and your lawyer approach this decision, it is critical to understand how the choice can affect your case.

Constitutional Rights and Protections for Criminal Defendants

As a criminal defendant, you have the right to due process of law as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You also have the right to face your accusers under the Sixth Amendment. Taken together, these rights have been interpreted in case law as giving you the right to testify in any criminal proceeding against you. Nobody involved in the case can keep you from testifying if you wish to do so, including the judge, the prosecutor, or even your own attorney.

It is also your right not to testify during your criminal trial. This right does not exist in other types of proceedings. For example, you can be required to testify in a civil trial, and failing to comply could lead to sanctions or a finding of contempt. However, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself, which means that you cannot be compelled to testify when you are the defendant in a criminal case.


Posted by on in Federal Crimes
Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerA federal indictment is a legal document charging someone with a federal crime. The prosecution can only obtain an indictment after arguing their case to a grand jury. The jury then convenes and determines whether or not there is probable cause that the individual committed the crime. If the grand jury determines there is probable cause, an indictment is issued. Receiving a federal indictment is very stressful and can cause those charged to think the worst as they imagine spending several years in federal prison. However, not every federal indictment ends this way. Those charged with a federal crime do have options, and they should discuss all of them with a federal criminal defense attorney. Dismissal This is the best chance a person has at retaining their freedom after receiving a federal indictment. When a case is dismissed in federal court, the charges are dismissed and the case is thrown out of court. According to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 47, when the defense wishes to have a case dismissed, they must file a motion with the court. In order to obtain a dismissal of the case, the defense must show within their motion that the defendant should not have been charged with the alleged crime, or that their constitutional rights were violated. Obtaining a dismissal is much more difficult in federal court than it is in state court. This is due to the fact that in federal court, a grand jury consisting of 12 people has determined there is probable cause. In a state court, only one judge is convinced of probable cause. The law views the opinions of 12 people as more substantial than the opinion of just one. However, when the prosecution has a weak case, dismissals are still a possibility. Plea Deal Under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defense team and the prosecution can strike a plea deal. This is the best option when the defense believes they will not receive a successful verdict at trial. During a plea deal, the defense team will meet with the prosecution and agree to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a lesser sentence. Certain sentencing factors, such as enhancements, are often thrown during the negotiation. It is important for defendants to understand that when a plea deal is made between the prosecution and the defense, the court must approve it. If the court decides not to approve it, the case will go to trial. Trial After receiving a federal indictment, many defendants think taking the case to trial is the worst option. This, however, is not always true. A jury made up of 12 people will determine a defendant’s innocence or guilt throughout the course of a trial. This means the prosecution must convince the entire jury of a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When they fail to do so, the jury must find the defendant innocent. Going to trial is often the best chance a defendant has at beating the charges and retaining their freedom. Review Your Options After a Federal Indictment with a Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone that is indicted on federal charges may think they are out of options. This, however, just is not true. A passionate Chicago federal criminal defense attorney can help. If you have been indicted by a grand jury, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-629-0669. We know the many options available, and we will review them all with you to determine which one is right for your specific case. We offer free consultations, so call us today and we can begin discussing your case.


Illinois defense attorney, criminal trial procedure, evidence, Illinois criminal lawyer,A recent federal criminal trial was brought to an abrupt halt when the testimony for a key witness for the prosecution revealed some unsavory information about the defendant’s past. According to reports, the witness was asked how he recognized the defendant in a surveillance video when the witness “volunteered” that he recognized the defendant because of a previous incident when the defendant was arrested and convicted for burglary. This revelation – that the defendant was previously arrested and convicted of burglary – brought the trial to a halt.

Why Was the Trial Stopped?

In this particular instance the trial was stopped because the witness offered evidence that is generally not permitted in a criminal trial. According to federal rules that govern the conduct of criminal trials, the prosecution is generally not permitted to introduce evidence of prior crimes or “bad acts” the defendant committed as a way of suggesting that the defendant is more likely to commit the crime with which he or she is charged. For instance, a prosecutor prosecuting a charge of burglary against an individual generally cannot use the fact that the defendant committed other burglaries for the purpose of suggesting the defendant is more likely to have committed the present burglary. If such evidence comes out at trial, a mistrial can generally be achieved as the “prejudice” caused by the revelation of this information is usually so great that the defendant can no longer be guaranteed a fair trial.


unfit to stand trial, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Chicago criminal defense attorneyUnder Illinois law, the state may not try a defendant who is “is unable to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense.” The law presumes all defendants are fit to stand trial unless there is expert testimony that can prove otherwise. Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court considered the question of whether a defendant who suffered brain damage, and therefore could not recall the events leading to his criminal trial, was unfit to stand trial.

Self-Inflicted Wound Led to Brain Damage

According to testimony offered in court—but, it should be noted, not at a criminal trial where guilt was determined—the defendant in this case broke into his ex-wife's house and held her and two other persons at gunpoint. The ex-wife managed to call 911, and a police tactical team subsequently arrived and surrounded the house. Following a standoff with police, the defendant apparently shot himself in the head. Police entered the house and found the defendant “lying face down and bleeding.”

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution famously guarantees a criminal defendant's right to “a speedy and public trial” before a jury of his or her peers. But how “speedy” is speedy? Congress and the United States Supreme Court have established certain time limits that prosecutors must obey in bringing charges against a defendant. This does not always guarantee a speedy trial however, as many criminal cases can drag on for months or years depending on the circumstances.

The Speedy Trial Act

In 1974, Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act, which sets various milestones for criminal prosecutions. For example, the act requires the government to issue an information or indictment within 30 days of arresting or serving a summons upon the defendant. The trial must then begin within 70 days of the latter of the date of the indictment or the defendant's first court appearance. In order to give a defendant adequate time to prepare a defense, the act further stipulates the trial may not begin within the first 30 days following the initial court appearance.

There are exclusions from the 70 days limit that, in effect, stop the clock. If either party files a pretrial motion, which is common in most criminal cases, the time needed to dispose of that motion is excluded from the 70 day limit. Likewise, any delay caused by the defendant's appearance in another legal proceeding is excluded. The prosecution and the defense may also agree to a delay.

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