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Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIn many scenarios when someone has been charged with a crime, they have the hope of a plea bargain, particularly if the prosecution has built a strong case against them. Many people understand the concept of plea bargains, largely due to the fact that television shows and movies often include them within the plot of the story. When faced with a criminal trial, though, people are prone to wonder if the prosecution will offer a plea bargain and, if so, whether or not they should accept one.

Although plea bargains are quite common in state courts, they are typically rarely offered in federal court, for many reasons. If offered one, it is in the accused’s best interests to work with a federal criminal defense lawyer that can determine if the plea bargain is in their best interests.

Advantages of Plea Bargains

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arraignment, criminal defense, Chicago Criminal Defense AttorneyAfter you are arrested in Illinois, one of the first times you appear in court will be for an arraignment. This is a special type of procedural hearing that only occurs in criminal cases. Several things happen at an arraignment that will have a major impact on how the rest of your case proceeds. It is important that you understand your rights and that you talk with your lawyer prior to your arraignment.

Hearing the Charges

The two main purposes of the arraignment are to read the defendant the charges against him or her and to hear the defendant’s plea. You have a right to have a lawyer present at the arraignment. If you do not have a lawyer, you should still attend the hearing because failure to appear in court is a separate crime and a very serious matter. The judge will issue an arrest warrant and possibly revoke your bail if you fail to make your court date.

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plea bargain, guilty plea, Illinois criminal defense attorneyWith high-profile criminal prosecutions regularly capturing national attention and the intense dramatization of courtroom proceedings on television shows and movies, many may be led to believe that every criminal charge will play out in an oak-paneled room, in front of a duly-appointed judge and jury. The reality is, however, that less than ten percent of criminal cases ever reach trial, and in federal cases, only around three percent will ever be tried. Instead, the vast of majority of criminal proceedings are resolved by means of a plea bargain.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain, in effect, is a negotiation between prosecutors and a defendant, which seeks to reach a resolution to the case without requiring a trial. During the process, a defendant generally will agree to plea guilty to the specified charge or a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence and/or cooperation with the prosecution of related cases. The Illinois Supreme Court mandates that any plea bargain must be voluntary on the part of a defendant who clearly understands the charges and associated penalties.

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Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, criminal pleas,Roughly nine out of every 10 criminal cases in the United States are resolved through some sort of plea agreement. Usually, these agreements require the defendant to accept some criminal liability for some criminal offense in return for a more lenient sentence or punishment. The manner in which the criminal defendant accepts or rejects liability for the charged crime is through entering a plea.

Types of Pleas in Illinois

 There are four types of pleas a criminal defendant may enter to charges in Illinois. Each type of plea can have serious ramifications, so it is best to consult with an Illinois criminal defense attorney before entering any plea:

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If you have engaged in illegal activity, it may be in your best interest to enter plea negotiations with the government, accepting responsibility in exchange for a reduced sentence. It is also important to understand that you must tell the truth as a part of any plea bargain. Prosecutors and judges will treat a defendant more harshly if he or she has lied or misled them during the plea bargaining process. A recent decision from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago underscores this point.

United States v. Hargis

Lori Hargis faced a common problem among many homeowners in a down economy. She wanted to sell her Kentucky residence but could not find a buyer. She decided to burn the house down and collect on the insurance covering her as a homeowner. In 2007 she hired Leslie White to set the house on fire, which he did in December of that year. Hargis subsequently filed an insurance claim for $866,000 to cover the value of the house and its contents.

It is a federal crime to use any instrument of interstate commerce, such as the mail or internet, to unlawfully damage or destroy a building by means of fire. In 2011, a grand jury indicted Hargis and White on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by using fire. White entered a guilty plea. The trial judge sentenced White to three years in prison, more than double what the U.S. attorney said the federal sentencing guidelines advised. The judge nonetheless felt the severe sentence was necessary to deter others who might contemplate a similar arson scheme.

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