If you are charged (accused) with a crime your bond will be set. For some criminal activities, such as misdemeanors, the bond amount is already determined and you can be released from the police station once it is paid. Most times, however, your bond is set by the court after a bond hearing.This is commonly called bond court. In Cook County bond court is usually held the next day after you are charged.
At bond court the State will tell the judge what they think you did. They will also tell the judge about any criminal background you may have or any other special circumstances which they feel are relevant to determining the amount of bond. Your defense lawyer will then have an opportunity to tell the judge a little bit about you. Your attorney should make the judge aware of your family history, education, work history, medical history, good character and so on. Basically, you want the judge to know anything good about and give him or her a good reason to let out out on the lowest possible bond. If the judge grants you an I-bond you do not have to post any money. If the judge grants you a D-bond you have to post 10% of that amount. (For example a $10,000 D-bond means you actually post $1,000.)
If you can pay the bond amount or are given an I-Bond, you will be released on bond until your case is over. If you can not pay the bond, or if bond is denied, you will be kept in the county jail until your case is over.
2. Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury Proceeding
The next step after bond is set is to determine whether there is probable cause for the case to proceed against you. This is done at either a preliminary hearing or grand jury. The preliminary hearing or grand jury should generally occur within 30 days of your being charged (60 days if you are out on bond).
A preliminary hearing is a brief hearing held in open court before a judge. It is not as trial. You will not be putting on your case and bringing forward your witnesses. That is for a later time and place if necessary. The State will bring someone to testify (generally a police officer) who is familiar with the investigation of the case. They can even introduce hearsay evidence at a preliminary hearing! Your attorney will have an opportunity to cross examine the witness. The judge will make a determination whether there is probable cause for the case against you to go forward. If the judge feels that there is not, he or she will make a finding of no probable cause and the case will be dismissed. Even though the preliminary hearing is brief it is still very important. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine a State’s witness who may not have had adequate time to prepare. If the court does not dismiss the case outright, effective cross examination can sometimes torpedo the State’s plans and set the stage for a more favorable defense case.
If the State chooses to do so they can take your case to a grand jury instead of a preliminary hearing. (Sometimes they choose to do so after they lose at a preliminary hearing.) A grand jury is a group of 16 individuals who decide whether there is probable cause for the case to proceed against you (just like the judge does in a preliminary hearing). A grand jury proceeding is secret, meaning neither you nor your lawyer are allowed to be present. You will be informed if you are indicted by the grand jury and will be given a transcript of everything that was said during the proceeding.
If there is a finding of probable cause following the preliminary hearing or grand jury hearings you will be assigned and arraigned.
Assignment simply means you are assigned to a permanent felony trial judge and room. The judge is picked randomly. Under certain circumstances you may be able to ask for a substitution of judge.
Arraignment simply means you enter your formal plea. Once you appear for the first time before the judge that you have been assigned to you will be given a copy of the charges against and you will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty. At this early stage you almost always enter a plea of not guilty. This is the real start of the felony case against you. Your attorney will make a “motion for discovery” requiring the State to turn over any evidence that it has (including evidence favorable to you).
Ultimately, your case will go to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, the number of witnesses, the type and amount of evidence, the number of motions etc., this can take several months. You will choose whether you want a trial by the judge, commonly called a bench trial, or a trial by jury. You will also choose whether you testify at trial. You cannot be forced to take the stand. Your attorney will advise you on all of these choices and will prepare the most effective defense for your case whichever way you decide to proceed.