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orland park criminal defense laweyrBeing accused of a crime you did not commit is a nightmare come true for many people. Being convicted of a felony or misdemeanor you are not guilty of can be deeply upsetting and bring harsh, undeserved penalties. Our legal system has safeguards, like the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard for conviction. Yet, people are still found guilty - or plead guilty - to crimes they did not commit. 

There are a number of complex reasons why some defendants fall through the cracks and serve sentences for crimes they are not truly guilty of. Working closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop a strong defense strategy is likely your best hope for avoiding a wrongful conviction. 

Why Do People Plead Guilty to Crimes They Did Not Commit?

For those who lack significant experience with the justice system, pleading guilty when you are not can seem insane. Yet, it happens constantly. Reasons innocent people may claim guilt include:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1212049237-min.jpgNearly every incarcerated person hopes for an early release. For some, this could become a reality with the passage of Illinois Senate Bill 2129. This new law will open the door for a state’s attorney to ask the court that a prisoner’s sentence be reduced “if the original sentence no longer advances the interest of justice.” There are a number of factors that can be considered in determining whether early release under this bill could be appropriate for an individual convicted of a felony

Because this law is so new, it is not entirely clear how it will work in practice. For some people incarcerated in Illinois, however, there may be the hope of a reduced sentence in light of changing circumstances. 

What Makes Someone a Good Candidate for Release Under this Law?

Generally speaking, the state does not want to keep people incarcerated unless it is necessary to serve justice or keep the public safe. Sometimes, after the original sentencing, a convicted person’s circumstances change so that justice may not demand their continued incarceration. 

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Posted on in Criminal Law

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_66943093-min.jpgBeing falsely accused of a criminal offense is horrifying. You have done your best to lead a law-abiding life, but for some reason, that is not enough, and you are now under suspicion anyway. There are a number of reasons you may have been accused of something you did not do, ranging from mistaken identity to a malicious lie. False accusations of domestic violence and similar crimes are strikingly common, especially when a couple goes through a rough divorce or break-up. Immediately contacting a criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn that you are under suspicion may give you the best chance of proving your innocence. 

What Can I Do If I Am Wrongly Accused of a Crime? 

The exact steps you should take will depend on how far along in the criminal process you are. If you are merely a suspect and have not been arrested or charged, refusing to talk and asking for a lawyer is probably the right thing to do. If you are already facing charges or have been indicted, the time to contact an attorney is yesterday. Here are some other tips that may help: 

  • Be proactive - If you are merely a suspect, you should still take action. This is the best possible time to retain a lawyer. By getting on top of the situation, your lawyer may be able to work with the police or prosecutor to show that you are innocent and avoid you ever being charged in the first place. 

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arlington heights criminal defense lawyerIn Illinois, after you have plead guilty to a crime or been convicted at trial, what is known as the sentencing phase of your case begins. During sentencing, the court will look over the facts and circumstances surrounding your crime and decide what sentence is appropriate. “Mitigating factors” are circumstances that suggest a crime was not as serious as the charge implies or a harsh sentence is not warranted.  When successfully argued, these factors may lead to a lighter sentence. If you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, it is important that you work with an experienced attorney who can present any mitigating factors that may help you avoid harsh sentencing. 

Examples of Mitigating Factors in Illinois

During sentencing, the prosecutor will present any aggravating factors - circumstances that make the crime more serious. Your attorney will then have the opportunity to present mitigating factors. When present, mitigating factors can influence the court to reduce your sentence. In some cases, substantial mitigating factors can lead to the court reducing jail time or ordering probation, treatment, or other sentences that do not include incarceration. Mitigating factors in Illinois include: 

  • No Criminal History - If the defendant has no other criminal charges on his or her record, this may help him or her avoid harsher criminal penalties. 

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arlington heights criminal defense lawyerIn Illinois, once you have plead guilty to or been convicted of a crime, the case moves into the sentencing phase. During the sentencing phase, the prosecution will have the opportunity to present what are called “aggravating factors.” Aggravating factors are circumstances that make the crime more serious and may cause a judge to issue a harsher sentence. If you are facing the possibility of a felony or misdemeanor conviction where aggravating factors may be present, you will need an experienced attorney to give you the best chance at avoiding harsh sentencing. 

Examples of Aggravating Factors 

For each criminal charge, there are factors that are not needed to secure a conviction but do make the courts consider a given crime more serious. The more aggravating factors that are present, the harsher a sentence the judge may issue. Some common aggravating factors include: 

  • Vulnerable Victim - Crimes against a victim who was particularly vulnerable are considered especially serious in Illinois. Vulnerable victims include elderly people, disabled individuals, or children

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