When facing an Illinois criminal charge and court appearances, you may find that a lot of legal jargon is thrown at you. Some terms may be more confusing than others. Two of the more common terms you might hear are City Charge and State Charge. Along with these terms, you might also hear mentions of a City Prosecutor or State's Attorney.
So what do those mean for you and your case?
In most instances, when you are facing any Illinois criminal charge that isn't a federal criminal charge, your case will be charged and prosecuted by the city or the state in which the offense occurred. Furthermore, who charges and prosecutes you can have an impact on the proceedings of your case.
In any Illinois or DuPage County criminal case, there are two parties involved: 1) the defendant; and 2) the prosecutor.
The defendant is the individual who is charged with a criminal offense. So, if you are facing criminal charges, you are the defendant in your case.
The prosecutor is the party who is looking to prove that you are guilty of your alleged criminal offense. This is where your case may vary. Depending on whether your charge is a city charge or state charge, you may be facing a city prosecutor or a State's Attorney.
We'll break down the difference for you below.
Often, less serious criminal charges and offenses (including ordinance violations and some misdemeanors) are prosecuted by a municipality rather than the state. When this happens, the charge is classified as a city charge.
In a city charge, the prosecutor is typically a city or village prosecutor. The prosecutor will also vary based on the type of criminal charge and the city where the alleged offense occurred. In DuPage County alone, there are numerous cities and villages including Naperville, Wheaton, Downers Grove, or Elmhurst. Each of these cities has their own prosecutors for different categories of criminal charges.
As an example, let's say you are charged with a DUI in Naperville. Chances are, a designated Naperville DUI prosecutor will prosecute your case. On the other hand, say you are charged with a DUI in Downers Grove, or a completely different type of criminal offense in Naperville. In either scenario, you may be assigned a different prosecutor.
On the other side of the coin, we have state charges. At face value, the court process of a state charge isn't all that different from a city charge. They are typically held in the same court locations and are processed through the same circuit court clerk offices as city charges.
The major differentiating factors between state charges and city charges are 1) the severity of the case and 2) the prosecutor assigned to the case. State charges tend to be more severe offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Unlike a city charge, which is prosecuted by a city prosecutor, a state charge is prosecuted by a State's Attorney.
While there are many State's Attorney's offices located throughout Illinois, all State's Attorney's prosecute on behalf of the state of Illinois and not any local municipality. Additionally, different State's Attorneys will be assigned to specific cities and may specialize in the types of crime they prosecute.
In both city and state charges, there is a degree of predictability to who the prosecutor will be. Often, a criminal defense attorney who is experienced and actively practices in a specific geographic region will know the attorneys who prosecute crimes for different types of cases from that region. Furthermore, the attorneys who prosecute and defend cases are all familiar with one another, because they practice in the same counties, may have worked opposing sides on the same cases in the past, and regularly encounter each other in legal or courthouse settings.
For many individuals accused of a criminal offense, this knowledge can prove to be quite advantageous. If you are being prosecuted in a criminal case and you retain a defense attorney who has years of experience practicing in the county, they will likely be familiar with the prosecutor assigned to your case and have a working understanding of how the prosecution may proceed with your case. They'll be able to anticipate the prosecution style and tactics of the opposing side and be ready to strategically and tactfully fight your case for you.
If you or a loved one are facing a difficult criminal charge, we may be able to help. The criminal defense attorneys of Dolci & Weiland have over 50 years of combined experience defending clients throughout DuPage County, Cook County, and the northern Illinois area. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation where our attorneys can discuss your legal rights and options, give our office a call at (630) 261-9098.