A conviction means that you have been found guilty of a crime. This can happen:
- After a trial, when a judge or jury decides that you are guilty
- After you plead guilty to a crime
After you are convicted, you will be sentenced by a judge. Your sentence depends on the type of crime. Possible sentences include:
- Jail time
- Community service
The days you spent in jail during the trial might count toward your sentence. Your sentence can include just one, or more than one of these options.
Note: Some sentences are not considered convictions for the purposes of clearing your criminal record. To learn more about clearing your criminal record, see Expunging a criminal record.
Withdrawing a guilty plea
If you plead guilty, and you are not happy with the sentence, you can ask the judge to:
- Reconsider your sentence
- Withdraw your guilty plea
If your request to withdraw your guilty plea is granted by the judge, the case will start from the beginning like there was no plea. You must act quickly if you want to withdraw your plea. You have only 30 days from receiving your sentence to file a request.
The judge may set bond again. You may be locked up and remain in custody during trial if you cannot post bond.
Appealing a criminal conviction or sentence
You have the right to appeal your conviction and sentence. An appeal is a review of your case by the Illinois Appellate Court. The appellate court is a higher court that reviews the decisions of the trial court.
You can ask for an appeal if you believe there was a serious error in your case. The appellate court will then review the issues you bring up.
Common issues raised on appeal include:
- The trial court allowed or didn’t allow certain evidence
- Rulings on other pretrial motions
- The makeup of the jury
- Jury instructions
- The prosecutor’s arguments were inappropriate and unfair
An appeal is not like another trial. You do not get to have witnesses and re-argue the case. Instead, you must base your appeal on any of the following:
- The trial judge made procedural mistakes that ended in an unfair trial;
- The evidence does not support the verdict; or
- The trial court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.
If you can show that the judge made a mistake, your conviction can be overturned. But it won’t be overturned unless the mistake violated your rights in a serious way.
Winning an appeal is not easy, and most convictions are upheld.
If the appellate court finds a mistake and decides that it is serious, it can order a new trial. However, it is important to act quickly if you want to appeal your conviction. You only have 30 days after you are sentenced to appeal.
If you appeal, the judge may not send you to prison if you can post bond. However, bond is usually not granted.
Getting help with a criminal appeal
You are not required to have a lawyer to help you appeal your conviction, but it is strongly recommended. Contact the lawyer who represented you in court to discuss the matter. If you have no lawyer, write a letter to the circuit clerk, and your case will be brought before the judge, and a lawyer will be given to you.
In some cases, you may be able to get a free lawyer to help you appeal your conviction. In other cases, you may need to hire a private lawyer. For more information, contact the Public Defender’s office in your county, or visit the Office of the State Appellate Defender.