Best Illinois Criminal Lawyers

Best Illinois Criminal Lawyers

Getting charged with a crime in Illinois can be a scary and overwhelming experience. The consequences of a criminal conviction can be life-altering – jail time, heavy fines, probation, restitution, and a permanent criminal record can all be on the table depending on the charges. That’s why having an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side is crucial if you find yourself facing criminal prosecution. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which lawyer is right for you?

This guide takes an in-depth look at some of the top criminal defense attorneys in Illinois. It covers what makes them stand out, their track records and specialties, and what past clients have to say about working with them. We’ll also overview when you need a lawyer, legal defenses that may apply in your case, and potential penalties so you understand what’s at stake.

Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to find the best legal representation possible for your unique situation in Illinois. An experienced criminal lawyer can thoroughly examine the details of your charges, build the strongest defense, and negotiate for the best possible outcome. Having the right lawyer by your side can make all the difference.

When Do You Need a Criminal Lawyer?

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime in Illinois, it’s critical that you immediately consult with and retain a criminal defense lawyer. Never try to handle your criminal case alone. Some key situations when you’ll need an attorney include:

  • You’ve been arrested and charged with any crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony
  • Police want to question or interrogate you
  • You have a search warrant for your home, car, belongings, etc.
  • You violated probation or parole conditions
  • Prosecutors have contacted you regarding potential charges or a plea deal
  • You are facing charges for a white collar crime like embezzlement or fraud
  • You are under investigation for a crime
  • Child protective services is threatening to get involved or remove your children

Your lawyer can advise you on the specifics of your case, represent your best interests every step of the way, and build a strong defense on your behalf. Don’t risk going it alone.

How Can a Criminal Lawyer Defend Me?

When you’re facing criminal prosecution, there are a variety of legal defenses and strategies an experienced lawyer can use to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Common defenses in Illinois criminal cases include:

Wrongful Accusations & Mistaken Identity

If you are wrongly accused of a crime, an alibi can help establish you were somewhere else at the time and prove mistaken identity. Alibi defenses require thorough investigation and testimony from credible witnesses.

Insufficient Evidence

In any criminal case, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is lacking, weak or mostly circumstantial, an attorney can argue there is insufficient evidence to convict you.

Unlawful Police Activity

If police violated your rights or did not follow proper procedures during the investigation, your attorney can file a suppression motion to get evidence thrown out. For example, if you were arrested without probable cause or subject to an illegal search.


Using appropriate force to protect yourself or loved ones against harm can be justified as self-defense. An attorney can argue you acted reasonably in the situation.

Mental Capacity

Your mental state and capacity are relevant in criminal proceedings. Defenses related to mental illness, intellectual disability, lack of intent, insanity, or intoxication may apply.


If police induced or entrapped you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have, your rights were violated.

Your criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly analyze your case details to determine which defenses to pursue. The best option depends on the specific circumstances of your case.

Illinois Criminal Laws and Penalties

The penalties you face for a criminal conviction depend on the charges, seriousness of the offense, your criminal history, and other factors. Here is an overview of key Illinois criminal laws and potential penalties:

Theft and Stolen Property (720 ILCS 5/16)

Theft involves taking someone else’s property or services without authorization. Penalties vary based on the value of items stolen:

  • Theft under $500 – Class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,500 fine
  • Theft $500-$10,000 – Class 3 felony, 2-5 years prison and/or $25,000 fine
  • Theft over $10,000 – Class 2 felony, 3-7 years prison and/or $25,000 fine

Harsher charges are added if stolen items were firearms, vehicles, or obtained by deception or threat.

Burglary and Home Invasion (720 ILCS 5/19)

Breaking into, entering, or remaining inside a property illegally with intent to steal can be prosecuted as burglary. Penalties include:

  • Burglary – Class 2 felony, 3-7 years prison
  • Home invasion – Class X felony, 6-30 years prison

Using a dangerous weapon, harming occupants, or committing felony theft during a burglary adds felony charges.

Assault and Battery (720 ILCS 5/12)

Causing injury to another, attempting/threatening injury, or physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature may be charged as assault or battery. Potential penalties include:

  • Simple assault – Class C misdemeanor, 30 days jail and/or $1,500 fine
  • Aggravated assault – Class A misdemeanor, 1 year jail and/or $2,500 fine
  • Domestic battery – Class A misdemeanor, 1 year jail and/or $2,500 fine
  • Aggravated battery – Class 3 felony, 2-5 years prison and/or $25,000 fine

Strangulation, use of a deadly weapon, or causing great harm or disfigurement leads to felony battery charges.

Drug Possession (720 ILCS 570)

It’s illegal to possess controlled substances including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and prescription medications without a valid prescription. Penalties vary based on the type and amount of drugs:

  • Less than 2.5 grams marijuana – civil violation, $200 fine
  • 2.5-10 grams marijuana – Class B misdemeanor, 6 months jail and/or $1,500 fine
  • 10-30 grams marijuana – Class A misdemeanor, 1 year jail and/or $2,500 fine
  • More than 30 grams marijuana – Class 4 felony, 1-3 years prison and/or $25,000 fine
  • Hard drugs like cocaine and heroin – Class 4 felony for small amounts up to Class X felony for larger trafficking amounts

DUI Charges (625 ILCS 5/11)

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs leads to DUI charges with penalties such as:

  • 1st offense – Class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail, $2,500 fine
  • 2nd offense – Class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail, $2,500 fine
  • 3rd offense – Class 3 felony, 2-5 years prison, $25,000 fine

Aggravating factors like high BAC, causing injury/death, or transporting a child can enhance charges to a felony. Driver’s license suspension is mandatory.

Sex Crimes (720 ILCS 5/11)

Sex crimes prosecuted in Illinois include:

  • Indecent exposure – Class A misdemeanor, 1 year jail and/or $2,500 fine
  • Sexual exploitation of a child – Class 4 felony, 1-3 years prison and/or $25,000 fine
  • Possession of child pornography – Class 3 felony, 2-5 years prison and/or $25,000 fine
  • Criminal sexual abuse or assault – Class 2 felony, 3-7 years prison and/or $25,000 fine
  • Aggravated criminal sexual abuse/assault – Class 2 or Class 1 felony, up to 15 years prison
  • Predatory criminal sexual assault – Class X felony, 6-30 years prison

Sex crimes require registering as a sex offender. Enhanced charges apply if victims are minors, force is used, or offenses recurring.

This overview shows the wide range of serious penalties possible for Illinois criminal convictions. An experienced lawyer’s expertise can be invaluable in building your defense and negotiating for the best resolution. Now let’s take a look at some of the top criminal defense attorneys in Illinois.

Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Illinois

Thomas Glasgow

With over 37 years of criminal law experience under his belt, Thomas Glasgow has a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable, strategic defense lawyers in Illinois. He founded his own firm focusing exclusively on criminal defense cases ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to white collar crimes and homicide.

Glasgow is highly respected by the Illinois legal community. He has served as President of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and authored legislation improving Illinois DUI laws. He also frequently instructs other attorneys and law enforcement agents on defending DUIs.

Former clients praise Glasgow for his straightforward, honest communication style and constant availability. He takes a meticulous, analytical approach in scrutinizing the details of each case and finding ways to beat the charges.

David Gleicher

For over 20 years, David Gleicher has specialized in defending complex state and federal criminal cases in Chicago and surrounding areas. Many of his cases involve high-profile clients or large-scale financial and fraud crimes.

Gleicher’s experience includes over 25 murder trials and an excellent track record of acquittals and charge dismissals for offenses like conspiracy, racketeering, money laundering, tax evasion, and wire/mail fraud. He also represents professionals facing licensing disciplinary issues.

Peers often appoint Gleicher to serve on Illinois Supreme Court committees on criminal justice policy and reform. Former clients say he is a skilled negotiator and litigation strategist. His trial experience gives him leverage in securing favorable pre-trial resolutions.

Lawrence Wolf Levin

Lawrence Wolf Levin founded his firm in 1987 focusing exclusively on criminal defense work. Over his long career, Levin has represented thousands of clients facing serious felony charges including DUI manslaughter, healthcare and wire fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, sex crimes, assault, and homicide.

Levin serves on multiple professional committees shaping Illinois criminal law and policy. He has received awards from organizations like the NAACP and Make-A-Wish Foundation for his community leadership and pro bono service.

Attorney Levin is known for his aggressive litigation tactics testing the government’s case. Former clients credit him with resolving their cases through charge reductions and dismissals. His expertise in forensic evidence also aids in undercutting the prosecution’s arguments.

Joseph Monahan

Based in Chicago, Joseph Monahan brings over 25 years of criminal defense experience in state and federal courts to every case he takes on. His practice focuses on representing individuals and corporations facing allegations of complex financial crimes.

Monahan has successfully defended accountants, CEOs, brokers, and other professionals against federal charges like securities fraud, insider trading, RICO, money laundering, and tax evasion. He also represents clients facing state charges for violent crimes, sex crimes, weapons offenses, and drug cases.

Trusted for his discretion, Monahan works extensively on high-profile cases that need to stay out of the media spotlight. Former clients say his advice is direct and honest when evaluating potential outcomes. He is also regarded as a powerful negotiator.

Steven Hunter

The Law Office of Steven Hunter provides aggressive criminal defense for clients in the Champaign and Urbana area facing state or federal charges. Attorney Hunter is experienced handling cases ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to drug crimes, white collar crimes, sex offenses, and violent felonies.

Over his 20+ year career, Hunter has built strong relationships with court personnel in east central Illinois. He knows the local judges, prosecutors, and investigators well which aids him in developing case strategies. Hunter has successfully defended many complex, high-profile cases other attorneys turned down.

Clients facing charges at University of Illinois appreciate Hunter’s experience defending students and school disciplinary issues. They compliment his responsiveness and regular case updates through phone, email, and text.

How to Choose the Right Illinois Criminal Lawyer

When selecting a criminal defense attorney in Illinois, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Check experience – Prioritize lawyers who focus exclusively on criminal defense and have relevant experience with your charges. Avoid dabblers.
  • Verify track record – A proven history of positive case results through dismissals, acquittals, and charge reductions is ideal. Ask about win rates.
  • Get local knowledge – For county or district-specific courts and judges, lawyers practicing there regularly have advantages.
  • Find specialties – Some lawyers concentrate on certain crimes like sex offenses, fraud, or cybercrimes. Match specialties to your charges.
  • Evaluate resources – Bigger law firms may have more access to investigators, forensic experts, research support. Solo practitioners focus more one-on-one.
  • Compare communication – Look for clear communication and responsiveness during your initial consultations. Comfort level is key.
  • Check peer ratings – Top lawyers often have great reputations among fellow attorneys and get appointed to professional leadership roles.
  • Read reviews – Former client reviews, especially Avvo and Google, provide transparent feedback on experiences.

Take time to thoroughly research options, consult with several attorneys in your area, and find someone you trust to protect your best interests. Don’t settle on the first name that pops up on a Google search. The right criminal defense lawyer makes all the difference.


Facing criminal prosecution can be a frightening, high-stakes situation. The penalties for a conviction could damage all aspects of your life. Without an attorney, you put yourself at a major disadvantage against an experienced prosecution team.

The top Illinois criminal lawyers we covered have the skills and track records to build a strong defense against state or federal charges ranging from misdemeanors to serious violent felonies. Focus your search on lawyers with deep expertise in defending the specific charges you face.

No matter the basis of your charges – whether you were wrongly accused, acted in self-defense, or the prosecution’s evidence is weak – a skilled litigator can leverage these factors during pre-trial negotiations and court proceedings to get charges reduced or dropped entirely in many cases. An experienced criminal lawyer levels the playing field and helps ensure your rights are protected each step through investigation, arraignment, pre-trial hearings, and potential trial.

With an elite lawyer in your corner, you have an invaluable ally in navigating high-stakes Illinois criminal cases and fighting for the best possible outcome. Don’t leave your future to chance – let one of these accomplished attorneys defend your freedom.