Prison does not have to be the only option

A felony conviction feels like a body blow as the bailiff reads off the guilty charges. Each “guilty” statement acts like another punch to the gut as you see your future crashing down around you. Not everyone who is convicted guilty is a bad person. Just because you were found guilty does not mean that the fight is over. It does not mean that your future has to be over.

Illinois provides alternative mental health treatment and sentencing for those who are eligible. This court specializes in dealing with offenders who have a history of drug abuse or mental health problems. It is an alternative to jail and prison for certain non-violent offenders. The mental health court is open to any defendant that is convicted of a non-violent and non-sexual felony or misdemeanor. The defendant must be able to understand the requirements of the program and consent to the program procedures. Treatment is flexible and involves a combination of therapy, outpatient, inpatient, residential, rehabilitation and vocational schools.

However, you must plead guilty to the crime for which you are charged. It is in this phase that it is possible for your attorney to negotiate a more favorable plea deal. Regardless of the deal, you must plead guilty. Once you plead guilty you are transferred from prison or jail to a case office that will handle the next phase of your sentencing. You will be given an individualized treatment plan that will take 24 months to complete. Upon completion of the program you will be released from its obligations and hopefully on your way to your new life. There are a multitude of options available to avoid prison time.

If you have been charged with a crime, you may wish to have an attorney help you explore the possible options to avoid prison time. A guilty conviction doesn’t mean the fight is over; it only means that your defense strategy has changed. Your attorney can still fight for your rights during the sentencing phase to ensure that every available treatment and alternative option is open to you. There are still options out there. This is why seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can be so advantageous. Don’t give up just because you were found guilty or plead guilty. Your rights to a fair and just sentence don’t end because you were found guilty.