1. What is a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a lesser offense that carries a maximum sentence of county jail time and fines upon conviction. In a misdemeanor case, the defendant will plead guilty or not guilty during the first court appearance. If there is a Not Guilty plea entered, a date is set for a pre-trial hearing. Many cases are resolved at the pre-trial hearing stage. If a resolution does not occur here, however, the case is set for trial and witnesses and victims are notified to appear if the testimony is needed.
2. What is a felony?
A felony is a more serious offense that carries a possible sentence of imprisonment for a year or more upon conviction. The defendant is not called upon to plead guilty or not guilty at his/her first court appearance. Instead, a date is set to determine whether or not there exists probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense. The State either presents evidence of probable cause to a grand jury made up of sixteen citizens, or to the judge in a preliminary hearing. If there is a finding of probable cause, the case is set for arraignment, at which time the defendant is formally charged with a criminal offense and is called upon to plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is set. It is always possible, however, that the case may be resolved by way of a negotiated plea of guilty prior to the trial.
3. What do I need in order to take advantage of the “Walk-In Complaint” service?
In the vast majority of criminal cases, the responding police departments investigate the matter and take all necessary steps to initiate criminal proceedings when a crime has been committed. However, in some cases, the police simply make a report documenting the details of the complaint and refer the victim to the State’s Attorney’s Office. In most cases, this procedure is followed when the police feel there is insufficient evidence warranting an arrest.
The Walk-In Complaint service gives you the opportunity to discuss your case with an Assistant State’s Attorney after the police have decided that no criminal charges are warranted. During a meeting with the Assistant State’s Attorney, facts that were not contained in the police report may be discussed, and a criminal complaint may be issued. However, if there is insufficient evidence; meaning your case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the State’s Attorney cannot ethically proceed with a criminal case.
If the Assistant State’s Attorney is unable to file charges, a complete explanation will be given for the refusal along with advice regarding small claims court. Walk-In Complaint hours are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 57 N. Ottawa Street in Joliet from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. to anyone who has obtained a police report regarding a complaint.
4. What is Identity Theft, how do I protect myself from it, and what do I do if I am a victim?
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation today. It is affecting over half a million people each year costing millions of dollars in damage to credit ratings and savings accounts. You may be a victim of identity theft and not even know it. How easy do you think it is for someone to obtain your identity? A lot easier than you think! With the computer age upon us, there are hundreds of databases that collect and retain personal information about you. That information could include your buying habits, lifestyle activities, social security and driver’s license numbers, date of birth, phone number, home address, and profession.
Most information collected from you is collected legitimately, from grocery stores, magazine subscriptions, buying habits gleaned from credit card purchases, insurance carriers, and doctor’s offices. However, sometimes criminals gain access to this information. Another method of information gathering is much darker. Dumpster Divers check your mailbox and your garbage for credit card statements, bill receipts, and other documents that may give them information on your credit or banking information.
Prevention is Key
Some ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim at home are to: destroy all incoming mail, paid bill attachments, receipts, bank/credit card statements, etc. that have your name, address and /or personal information on them. Take your mail to the post office or put it in your mailbox right before the mail carrier comes. Don’t put your social security number on your driver’s license, and don’t carry your social security card, passport, or birth certificate unless it is absolutely necessary.
If someone calls you and offers you the chance to receive a credit card, “grand prize”, or anything else valuable, DO NOT give them any information, instead ask them to send you written verification. If they won’t, hang up. Keep a complete list of all your account numbers in a safe place and don’t forget to include the phone numbers for customer service.
Watch the expiration dates on your credit cards. In the event your new card doesn’t show up on time, contact your credit card company immediately and cancel credit cards that haven’t been used for six months; open credit is a prime target. Also, don’t put your credit card number on the Internet unless the site is noted as safe. Sometimes credit card companies send pre-approved credit card applications to your home and/or “convenience” checks. If you would like these “Identity Theft Time Bombs” to be stopped, ask your credit card company to stop sending the checks and call 1-888-5OPTOUT and ask participating credit card companies to stop sending pre-approved credit card applications.
Ask questions when companies or stores ask for personal identifying information. The harder we make it for them to find out the information, the less they will be inclined to continue the practice.
With computers, it’s sometimes impossible to tell what’s valid or invalid, just make a practice of deleting emails from unknown persons or companies. As stated above, only order from companies that have “safe” sites; those with “https” in the address bar and a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window. Be sure to keep your virus protection updates and have software for “cookie” or tracking device removal.
When traveling, stop all mail, newspapers and other recurring deliveries. Don’t give out any personal information unless you know and trust the person; i.e. hotel, car rental, etc. Use a secure (where no one can overhear you) location in the event you need to give out any personal information.
Check Your Credit Report
Beginning March 1, 2005, all Illinoisans can receive free copies of their credit reports once a year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies. The annual free reports are available only through the centralized source set up by the three credit reporting agencies. If consumers contact the companies directly they will still be charged for their credit reports. To obtain free reports, consumers can:
Annual Credit Reports Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
What do I do if I become a victim of Identity Theft?
Most of the time, you can’t prevent an ID Theft incident from occurring, because two-thirds of the time, some company that leaked the data is to blame. So be prepared, and be organized. Save paper bank records for at least a year. You’ll need them to prove your account balances in the event of an ID Theft incident. For more information, visit http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/ If you are currently a victim of Identity Theft and looking for all the steps to take to begin the process of recovering your identity, download and print out Victim Instructions from State’s Attorney James Glasgow.
5. How do I get an Order of Protection?
Orders of Protection can be obtained on the first floor of the Will County Courthouse, 14 West Jefferson Street, in Joliet. Court advocates are available to assist persons pursuing an Order of Protection on Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.
6. Can the State’s Attorney help me collect child support?
In the event that you are having trouble collecting child support, the Illinois Department of Public Aid or the Attorney General’s Office has not been involved in your case in the past or present, you have not received any public aid in the past or present, the person that is obligated to pay you support has not paid for more than two months, the person obligated to pay you support is not still married to you or living with you, and your divorce or child support file is in Will County, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office may be able to assist you in collecting child support through their Child Support Enforcement Division. A questionnaire with instructions for attachments is available at the State’s Attorney’s Office, 57 N. Ottawa St., Joliet.
7. What do I do if I am a victim of crime?
Immediately report the crime to your local police or the Sheriff’s Department. The police will ask you questions regarding the incident and will then prepare a police report.
What do I tell the police?
Tell the police exactly what happened: date, time, place, description of the offender(s), names and addresses of any witnesses (if possible), items that may have been taken, property that was damaged, and injuries that you may have received. BE TRUTHFUL IN PROVIDING INFORMATION. You could be prosecuted for deliberately giving false information to the police. HELP THE POLICE HELP YOU.
How does a criminal charge get filed?
The police department will bring the reports of arrested suspects to the State’s Attorney’s Office to file a complaint. After reviewing the report, if the State’s Attorney’s Office feels there is enough evidence to prosecute the case, a complaint will be signed. If the State’s Attorney’s Office feels there is insufficient evidence in the case, a complaint will not be issued.
What happens at the first court appearance?
If charges are filed and the accused person is arrested, he or she will soon appear in court. The judge will set bond and advise the defendant of the charges against him or her and of his or her Constitutional rights. The judge will then set another court date for the defendant. Victims and/or witnesses need not be present at the first court appearance.
When will I be notified to appear as a witness?
If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor offense, you will normally appear only at the trial. If the defendant is charged with a felony offense, you may be asked to appear at a preliminary hearing or a grand jury proceeding. The preliminary hearing is not a trial but is held to determine probable cause in a case. Probable cause in a case confirms: (a) that a crime has been committed and (b) there is a reason to believe that this defendant committed the offense. The preliminary hearing is held in front of a judge without a jury. If the judge finds that probable cause exists, then the case proceeds to a trial. If the judge finds that no probable cause exists, the case is dismissed. A grand jury is a group of approximately 23 citizens chosen to serve as jurors to hear evidence on alleged felony crimes. The grand jury decides whether: (a) there is enough evidence that the crime occurred and (b) there is enough evidence to indict the defendant. An indictment is a written document charging the person with a specific crime. The grand jury is an alternative to a preliminary hearing; you may or may not be asked to appear.
How will I be notified about my case?
Victims and witnesses are notified by mail and telephone. In some instances, the victims/witnesses may receive a subpoena, which is delivered in person by a deputy sheriff. A subpoena is a formal document requiring the person named on it to appear in court. The subpoena will tell you when and where to appear. Should you change your name, address or telephone number, notify the State’s Attorney’s Office immediately. Your case could be dismissed if you can’t be located.
What will happen when I appear in court?
The defendant is entitled to be in the courtroom during the trial and will normally be represented by an attorney. The case will either proceed along or will be continued. The case may be continued for a number of reasons; one of the parties may be sick or out of town. The defendant could ask for more time to find a lawyer or prepare his or her case if she or he is representing themselves. Sometimes, there are a great number of cases and they can’t all be heard at the same time. You will be given as much notice as possible either by phone or by mail.
What should I do if I am threatened?
Anyone who seeks to threaten or bribe you into dropping charges is obstructing justice and may be committing additional crimes. Immediately report any threat or bribe to the police and to the Assistant State’s Attorney who is assigned to your case.
What do I do if a defense attorney contacts me?
The defense attorney has the right in a criminal case to interview all witnesses. However, you don’t have to talk to him or her alone. If you would feel more comfortable having the Assistant State’s Attorney who is assigned to your case present at the interview, arrange to have him or her there. You should not sign anything without first talking to the prosecutor who is assigned to your case.
Can I receive compensation for physical injuries suffered?
If you sustain physical injuries and the injuries are from certain violent crimes, then you can file with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office under the Victim Compensation Act. Victim’s Compensation can reimburse you for medical expenses and loss of earnings. It only covers expenses NOT covered by your insurance company. It DOES NOT apply to property damage. You are eligible for Victim’s Compensation if:
- You are injured as a result of a violent crime committed or attempted against you;
- You have a loss resulting from injury of $200.00 or more after deducting any benefits or payments from Workman’s Compensation or private insurance (those 65 years of age or older are exempt from this requirement);
- You notify the police within 72 hours of the crime;
- You cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in the apprehension and prosecution of the offender;
- You are not related to or living in the same household as the offender;
- Your injury was not the result of any provocation on your part; and
- You file an application for compensation with the Illinois Court of Claims within one year of the injury.
Contact the Attorney General and/or the Will County State’s Attorney’s Victim & Witness Services at (815) 740-8079 if you would like to request a Victim’s Compensation Act Form.