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If you have a battery case in Chicago, you are in the right place. Everything here is built to help you make an organized and intelligent decision. My name is Chris Shepherd, I'm a battery lawyer serving Chicago with over a decade of experience.
What Are the Stakes?
Although battery is a crime and therefore punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2500 in fines, jail and huge fines are often not likely. This is especially true if you have no criminal background and there were no serious injuries. 720 ILCS 5/12-3
Rather, battery cases come with a whole host of other challenges in protecting the client.
First, there's the shadow any criminal case throws on your record. The existence of a criminal case, especially with a guilty plea or finding of guilty, is a clear and present danger to your career opportunities and lifetime earning potential.
The other lurking threat in battery cases is the risk of civil lawsuit. For example, if you plead guilty to battery in the criminal case, your accuser can use that against you in suing for civil money damages. It doesn't happen in anywhere near a majority of battery cases, but you should note the threat. The most important thing to keep in mind about the civil lawsuit threat in battery cases is that defeating the criminal accusation often decapitates the civil lawsuit.
These are the risks, but, if handled properly and aggressively from the beginning, you have every reason to get through this battery case unharmed, with your record intact.
Note: If you are charged with aggravated battery and not just simple battery, then there is a strong threat of jail time. Read my guide on Chicago aggravated battery charges for more.What’s Going to Happen in Court?
There are two possibilities.
First, your lawyer may be able to negotiate an agreement with prosecutors that keeps your record clean in exchange for something such as community service, counseling or restitution. For more information on getting your case dismissed through negotiations, read my Settlement Options guide.
The other possibility, if settlement negotiations are not successful, is fighting the case through motions and a trial.
Which of these two possibilities happens depends on many factors; to name just a few:
- Whether you have ever been arrested before,
- The criminal background of your accuser,
- What prosecutor is on duty that day,
- What courthouse you are in and
- What judge is presiding that day.
In my experience as a Chicago battery lawyer, settlement options are difficult to reach in battery cases because they involve high emotions. Unlike soliciting prostitution and drug offenses, battery cases often involve someone who claims to be a “victim”. This victim is essentially the prosecutor’s client. They are often angry, “out for blood” and want to hurt the defendant. The prosecution, as the accuser’s lawyers, must take their “client’s” feelings into account and so are less likely to agree to anything their client objects to.How Do I Beat My Case?
But it’s not all bad news with battery cases. In my over ten years defending people accused of battery, I have found these cases are among the most vulnerable to attack. Anyone can defend a client accused of battery by “winging it” in court. But the truly diligent lawyer will go on the offense and take advantage of the several out-of-court ways to beat battery cases. As an added benefit, the very things that help beat battery accusations simultaneously strengthen your negotiating position, increasing the chances that you can settle your case or get it dismissed:
- Secure video evidence before it is intentionally or accidentally destroyed. Attorneys have subpoena power, giving us the court's authority to command government agencies, private persons and business to preserve and hand over videos. Chicago, as a major metropolitan area, is simply crawling with video cameras. But, these videos are often routinely destroyed within 30 days or even 48 hours.
Think of all the videos you’ve seen on the internet or television that prove something happened differently than how another person said it did. There is simply no evidence more powerful than video evidence and it often breaks the whole case wide open.
- Investigate your accuser’s background for any crimes of violence or dishonesty that can be used against them. Even I am sometimes amazed at the quantity and quality of crime in the background of the person accusing my client. Past crimes of violence, dishonesty and drug addiction can all be used as powerful weapons to go on the offense against your accuser.
- Use a trusted private investigator to get witness statements down on paper before stories change. As a Chicago criminal lawyer I see it all the time: witnesses say one thing at the time of the incident and then change their story the further away the incident becomes and the closer court gets. When appropriate, a private investigator can lock in a witness to his statement thereby securing this otherwise loose end.
- Technical and Legal Defenses. There are many other technical and legal defenses to battery that are best discussed in person.
Every case is unique and there is no substitute for having a real conversation about your case. There’s no risk or cost in picking up the phone and calling; it can’t hurt and it will probably help. If you would rather speak in person, you are welcome to come in to the office conveniently located in downtown Chicago.
I have helped hundreds of people going through the same thing you are now facing. If there is a way to settle your battery case quickly while keeping your record clean, I will find it. If there is a way to beat your battery case, I will find it. On the way, phone calls and email will be answered promptly and you will always have direct access to me personally.