Champaign County Public Defender
Janie Miller-Jones

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Public Defenders are licensed attorneys who focus on criminal law.They are appointed by the Court when a person is indigent (unable to afford an attorney).By statute, Public Defenders represent clients (both adults and juveniles) in criminal cases in which you can be sentenced to jail or prison.This includes all felonies and misdemeanors and many traffic matters.The office also represents parents in abuse and neglect matters as well as individuals subject to involuntary commitment or contempt proceedings. Public Defenders are responsible for all aspects of a case, including client interviews, investigation, witness review, legal research and writing, motion and trial practice; they do not do criminal appeals. Public Defenders do not handle civil cases such as orders of protection, landlord-tenant and small claims cases.

  • A defense attorney's belief in a client's guilt or innocence is totally irrelevant. That determination is the job of the judge or jury under our adversarial system of justice. Every person charged by the government is entitled to zealous representation - which is what your will get with a Public Defender.

  • Yes. The office has a highly trained and experienced investigator. His job is to assist the lawyers by contacting witnesses, obtaining physical evidence, etc. that might prove a client's innocence or demonstrate a weakness in the prosecutor's case.

  • DO NOT discuss your case with anyone other than your Public Defender or a representative from this Office. Make sure that your attorney has a way to reach you at all times. Provide the attorney with your change of address and phone number promptly. Provide your attorney with a list of potential witnesses and character references early in your case. Be on time for court and meetings with your attorney. Always dress appropriately for court.

  • You should contact the office at 217-384-3714 and make an appointment.You can meet with your attorney in person or set up a call-in appointment.Most attorneys set aside about 30 minutes for an appointment.Make sure that you come to the office or call-in on time to ensure you have enough time to talk to your attorney.Be aware that attorneys have others client appointments and court obligations.If you need to simply leave a message for an attorney, let the secretary know this and it will be conveyed to your attorney. You may also email the message to pd@co.champaign.il.us and the message will be forwarded to your attorney.

  • Yes. Everything you tell your attorney is confidential and will not be disclosed to others without your permission.Attorneys are required to give clients advice on what to do. They can only give appropriate advice if they know all the facts of the case.

  • If you cannot afford an attorney, the Court will appoint the Champaign County Public Defender. Cases are assigned to specific attorneys based upon many factors. Clients are not allowed to select who their lawyer will be and cannot generally request a change of attorney.If you are unhappy with representation by your attorney, you can contact the chief Public Defender to convey your concerns.You always have the right to hire private counsel at any time.

  • Police will transport you to the Champaign County Correctional Center where you will be processed.Processing includes having your mugshot taken, fingerprints taken, etc.Based on the possible charges and facts of the case, the officers may allow you to post bond and be released.If you cannot do so, you will be brought before a judge, generally within 24 hours.

  • No. If you are questioned by law enforcement, it is essential to keep in mind the Miranda warnings: "You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and may be used against you in court; you have the right to an attorney before and during any questioning; if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to assist you." State clearly, and politely, that you wish to have an attorney present before and during any questioning. If law enforcement continues to question you after you have requested an attorney, repeat your request for an attorney and otherwise remain silent.

  • For everyone going to court on their first appearance, the judge will tell you the criminal charge and the possible sentence if convicted. The judge will ask what you want to do about a lawyer hire your own, ask for a Public Defender or represent yourself). If you are in jail, the judge will take up the issue of bond - that is, what amount of money you may need to be released. Most people plead not guilty at their first appearance and the matter is set for a pretrial date in the future.

  • In every criminal matter, the judge will set a bond in the case.It can be as little as $500 or as much as several million dollars. It depends largely on the charges, the facts of the case, previous convictions and connections to the community.If the judge grants recognizance, it means that you will be released free, that is without putting up any money, on your promise to return to court on a future date.If the judge denies recognizance, you generally have to post 10% of the bond amount plus a Sheriff's fee.

  • Persons charged with felonies have the right to a preliminary hearing which is a court proceeding where the Court decides whether there is probable cause that a crime was committed.Hearsay is allowed and other rules of evidence are relaxed so the hearings tend to be brief.

  • Every courtroom has different pretrial dates.These are when the judge goes down the list of cases and asks the attorneys (prosecutors and defense attorneys) what is happening with the case.At pretrial, the matters are generally set for a trial date, a plea date or continued to the next pretrial date which is usually a month later.Talk to your attorney about the specifics of your case since some judges will take pleas on pretrial days, etc.

  • When you appear in court for the first time, you need to fill out a Financial Affidavit which deputies in the courtroom can give to you.Fill it out accurately and completely. When you approach the bench, the judge will ask if you want a lawyer appointed to represent you.Hand the judge the affidavit.If the judge finds you cannot afford an attorney, then our office will be appointed.A Public Defender will be in court with you that same day.

  • Yes. The Sheriff does not allow any electronics in the building.This includes cell phones, laptops, and tablets.Leave those at home or in your car. You will not be allowed to bring them into the building.When you arrive at the courthouse, you will have to go through a metal detector so avoid bringing items or wearing clothes that may set off the machine.Make sure to get to the courthouse well before your court appearance or office appointment because there may be a line at the door.

  • You should dress in business casual or nicer.Do not wear shorts, military uniforms, t-shirts with inappropriately pictures or words, and clothing that is too revealing. Judges have discretion to remove people who are not dressed appropriately for court which may require you to appear on another date.

  • Trial preparation takes place through a process called "discovery." Discovery is the exchange of information between the prosecution and the defense before trial. Generally, the prosecution has a duty to turn over to the defense, upon request, the details of any offenses charged, the names of witnesses who may testify at trial, other evidence that may support the charges, and any information that may disprove the charges. On the other hand, the defense must turn over to the prosecution, upon request, the names of defense witnesses who may testify at trial and the nature of the defense.According to Supreme Court Rules and case law, lawyers are not allowed to give or make copies of discovery to clients.Lawyers are obligated to explain to a client all the evidence against them; this is usually done by showing the reports to clients or summarizing it for them.

  • A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor as to the outcome of a case. A defendant does not have the right to a plea bargain with the prosecutor; the prosecutor may offer a plea bargain but may not.Plea bargains are oftentimes agreements to plead to a specific charge (sometimes with dismissal of other charges) for a specific outcome (fixed period in prison or a fixed period of probation with certain conditions).The judge must ultimately accept the plea in court.

  • If an agreement is not reached with the prosecutor, you can either plead guilty for open (meaning the sentence is up to the judge) or you may set the case for trial.If the judge decides your sentence after an open plea or a finding of guilty after a trial, the judge is generally not bound by any agreements and can sentence you to anything permitted by law for that offense.

  • When you have a court date, you must appear in court as ordered.If you cannot make it for a valid reason (e.g. in the hospital) make sure you or a family a member contact your attorney before court so we can advise the judge.It is generally not a valid reason to miss court because you cannot get a ride, have to work or have child care issues.

  • Contact your attorney immediately so that the warrant can be taken care of.If you have the money to post on the warrant, it may be quickest to simply take the money and go to the jail to turn yourself in.The Sheriff will process you but then release you with a new court date.Let your attorney know if you are going to do this.If you do not have sufficient money to post on the warrant, your attorney will likely file a motion to quash warrant which would require you to appear in court.Your attorney may need information from you that may be useful such as documentation you were in the hospital when you were supposed to be in court.If you or your family posted money for your release and the warrant is more than 30 days old, you may have forfeited the money that was posted.

  • If you are sentenced to serve jail time in the Champaign County Correctional Center, you may be able to serve it by remaining in your home with an electronic bracelet on your leg which monitors your location.There are requirements that must be met to be eligible for EHD.The Sheriff's Office conducts evaluations to determine someone's eligibility and may approve someone for EHD. However, EHD is not available if the judge or prosecutor opposes it.Consult with your attorney about the details of your case.

  • No. Contacting the judge by yourself is an ex parte communication and is improper. If you want the judge to know something about yoru case, contact your attorney who can properly get the information before the judge.

  • Yes. All phone calls by inmates to family and friends are being recorded. Law enforcement officials, including the State's Attorney, have access to these calls so it may be in your best interest to not discuss the details of the case on the phone. Phone calls to attorneys are not recorded.

  • The Public Defender cannot assist in these matters because they are not criminal proceedings.You can attempt to do this on your own or by contacting a private attorney. There are links on this website with helpful materials on these issues.

  • Defendants in a criminal case have the final decision about a) whether to go to trial or accept a plea, b) whether to have a jury or a bench trial, c)whether to testify at trial, d) whether to submit lesser - included charges to the jury or judge for consideration and e) whether to appeal. Defendants should consult with their attorney before making any of these decisions.All other decisions are made by the lawyer but the lawyer should consult with a client beforehand.These decisions include: what investigation to conduct, what pretrial motions to file, what witnesses to call to testify, and what questions to ask witnesses.

  • The decision to accept a plea or go to trial is up to the client.It is perhaps the weightiest decision a defendant can make in a criminal case. The Public Defender will offer you all the information, advice and counsel we can to help you make the best decision you can. In the end, the decision to accept an offer and end your case without a trial or to fight your case at trial is yours and yours alone.

  • You can be prosecuted for a criminal offense even if you are not a US citizen.Please tell your lawyer if you are not a US citizen.How your case is resolved may affect your status which could include deportation or restrictions on your return to the US in the future. Public Defenders are not immigration experts and you should feel free to consult with the appropriate consulate or a private attorney who specializes in immigration matters.

  • If you believe that some error occurred in your case, you can appeal to the Appellate Court in Springfield.Specific documents must be filed and there are strict deadlines to follow. As a general rule, a document must be filed within 30 days of imposition of sentence.Consult with your attorney in a timely manner so your attorney has enough time to file the appropriate document to start the appellate process.

  • If you have been convicted of a felony, you may vote after your sentence is complete.If you are in prison or jail on a sentence, you can vote once you have been released and completed your sentence.