Facing Criminal Charges For The First Time

Are you facing criminal charges for the first time in your life? You’ve never been arrested before but now find yourself charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Illinois?

If so, the most important thing to do is to protect your criminal record.

Effects of a criminal record

A criminal record can have obvious effects on your life. Most employers run a background check before making a hiring decision. If you’re already employed, they may occasionally run updated backgrounds on their employers.

It can affect your license to work in healthcare, real estate, or anything else that requires professional licensing.

Some misdemeanor and felony convictions can affect your immigration status if you are not an American citizen.

Other crimes on your record can make you ineligible for public funding such as welfare benefits, housing, and student loans or result in the loss of your right to vote.

These consequences can have a serious impact on your life. For this reason, it is important to do everything possible to protect your criminal record while your case is still pending in court.

Avoiding a criminal record

Don’t worry. Since this is your first arrest (or if you have little criminal background), there are a number of options for you and your attorney to keep your background clean.

Many of the state’s attorney’s offices in Illinois have implemented “deferred prosecution programs.” These programs are designed for defendants with little to no criminal history to aid them in keeping their records clean. These programs allow the prosecutor to dismiss the charge outright after certain conditions are met by the defendant. This would mean you do not have to plead guilty and you can have the arrest expunged after the case is dismissed.

If the state’s attorney is not willing to defer prosecution (dismiss the case), there are other options for first offenders. These options include second chance probation, first offender probation or TASC probation. These would all allow any record of the charge to eventually be expunged.

Hiring an attorney

These programs are not automatically available. It is important that you hire a criminal defense attorney that can work with the prosecutor on your behalf to get your case dismissed without risking a trial. If dismissal is not an option, a skilled attorney may be able to resolve the case with little to no effect on your background. But ultimately, you want an attorney that you can trust to take your case to trial if necessary.