Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
- What is the role of the State’s Attorney?
- What are the services covered by the State’s Attorney Civil Actions Bureau?
- Does the Civil Actions Bureau provide legal assistance to county residents?
- How do I find an attorney to represent me in a civil matter?
- How do I report a crime?
- How can I track the status of a criminal case in which I have been a victim, witness, or a case in which I am interested?
- What do I do if I believe I have been a victim of identity theft or consumer fraud?
- What can I do if I have concerns about the safety of buying products online or if I believe I have been a victim of Internet theft or fraud?
- What do I do when I am called for jury duty?
- How can I find information regarding child support matters?
- What is the difference between criminal cases handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office?
- What is an order of protection?
- What is the difference between a civil and criminal order of protection?
What is the role of the State’s Attorney?
The Cook County State’s Attorney is responsible for both criminal prosecutions and civil litigations on behalf of the Cook County citizens, government agencies, and elected officials. The State’s Attorney manages prosecution of all individuals within the County who are offenders under Illinois’ criminal laws and is licensed to appoint Assistant State’s Attorneys as his/her legal representatives in legal proceedings.
The State’s Attorney, under Illinois, is granted full and exclusive authority to represent the citizens of the Cook County in criminal matters. As such, crime victims are prohibited from hiring private attorneys, and are instead, represented by Assistant State’s Attorneys, whose goal is to seek justice, not merely to convict. The assigned prosecutors under the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office handle all criminal cases and represent the interests of all Cook County citizens in criminal prosecutions. They conduct initial reviewing of criminal cases in order to determine which cases should be pursued and should the case be brought forward and presented to the judge or jury. The prosecutor acts as an advocate on behalf of the victim.
Beyond criminal prosecution, the State’s Attorney creates and enforces civil laws to protect and defend the citizens of Cook County, with emphasis on abused children, the elderly, disabled individuals, and consumers.
What are the services covered by the State’s Attorney Civil Actions Bureau?
The Civil Actions Bureau is responsible for handling civil suits and defends the County’s officeholders and employees in civil litigations. The Bureau not only represents the County’s interest but also collects and recovers taxes and fees owed to the state. The Assistant State’s Attorneys designated in the Bureau work on representing concerns of county agencies, including that of the health care facilities under the Cook County’s jurisdiction.
Additionally, the Civil Actions Bureau provides a variety of legal services and are divided into different sections with different specializations. The Bureau consists of the following sections: Child Support Enforcement; Industrial Claims; Labor and Employment; Medical Litigation; Municipal Litigation; Real Estate Taxation; Revenue Recovery; Special Project and Assignments; Torts and Civil Rights; and Transactions/Health Law.
Does the Civil Actions Bureau provide legal assistance to county residents?
The Civil Actions Bureau is only limited to representing the County’s officeholders and employees, and do not represent nor give legal advice to citizens regarding private legal issues and disputes. Individuals and business entities with legal disputes or concerns regarding rights, obligations, and other private legal issues, including disputes involving condominium owners and management associations, and that of tenants and landlords, must seek representation from a private attorney and obtain legal advice from a personal counselor at their own expense.
How do I find an attorney to represent me in a civil matter?
The Cook County’s Civil Actions Bureau has a “Links” page that is available for consultation on professional associations and non-profit organizations who will offer referrals to qualified attorneys suit for your particular case. The aforementioned page is subdivided into categories in a way that makes it easier for individuals or entities to scout for either free or low-cost legal services or for less affordable legal assistance. The specific areas in which numerous federal, state, county, and local agencies provide services on, such as mortgage and insurance claims, shoddy business services, and other consumer complaints, are also included in the listings on the “Links” page.
How do I report a crime?
All crimes, regardless of the nature of the crime, shall be reported directly to the police agency in the area where the crime occurred. Emergency situations may be directed to 911, in order for an immediate and accurate response be provided to the emergency situation.
How can I track the status of a criminal case in which I have been a victim, witness, or a case in which I am interested?
The Cook County’s Automatic Victim Notification (“AVN”) is a free, anonymous telephone system that is available to victims and witnesses of crimes and offers information and notification regarding the status of a case. The AVN service is accessible in English, Spanish, and Polish and may be reached through Telephone at (877) 846-3445 or at http://www.statesattorney.org/cook_county_avn.htm for more information.
What do I do if I believe I have been a victim of identity theft or consumer fraud?
All crimes, regardless of the nature of the crime, shall first be reported directly to the police agency in the area where the crime occurred. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Consumer Fraud Division may be reached through Telephone at (312) 603-8700 for follow-up.
What can I do if I have concerns about the safety of buying products online or if I believe I have been a victim of Internet theft or fraud?
In an instance that you believe you may have been victimized by fraudulent transactions, contact your local police department, report the incident, and request to be referred to the division that shall manage your case. It will be most helpful to read on the guidelines on issues of security and fraudulent transactions on the retail or auction-oriented website, such as eBay, that you have purchased on. To prevent being victimized, review and follow the protocols listed on the stores before buying an item online. More information on “High Tech Crimes/Internet Safety” may be found on the website of the Illinois Attorney General at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/communities/index.html#HIGHTECH
For more tips on avoiding online scams, online complaint forms, and contact information, including their toll-free call center, are all accessible at the website of the National Fraud Information Center at http://www.fraud.org
For grievances regarding goods that were bought online but were never received in the mail, a complaint may be filed with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Consumer Fraud Division generally do not prosecute cases concerning internet transactions as it falls outside the jurisdiction of the division; however, you may contact the Consumer Fraud Division through Telephone at (312) 603-8700 for further assistance.
What do I do when I am called for jury duty?
Information regarding jury duty is available at http://www.cookcountycourt.org/jury/index.html
How can I find information regarding child support matters?
Contact the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Child Support Enforcement Division through Telephone at (312) 345-2200 for information regarding child support matters.
What is the difference between criminal cases handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office?
On the one hand, the United States Attorney’s Office is under the U.S. Department of Justice and focuses on the prosecution of criminal cases relating to the violations of federal law. The U.S. Attorney has jurisdiction over both foreign and domestic crime, in which prosecutors in the Office handles numerous cases involving offenses for the use of the U.S. mail to commit crimes, such as theft or fraud. The attorneys in the Office also prosecutes criminal cases involving violations of federal tax regulations, crimes committed on federal property or against a federal official, and crimes involving the interstate transportation of narcotics, firearms or stolen merchandise. For inquiries, check out the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at http://www.usdoj.gov/.
On the other hand, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office focuses on prosecuting crimes involving the violation of the Illinois State Law, committed specifically within Cook County. Attorneys under the Office prosecute a wide range of violent crime, including first-degree murders, aggravated criminal sexual assault, property crimes, among others. The State’s Attorney’s Office is also responsible for handling cases of serious traffic law offenses, including driving under the influence, reckless homicide, driving on a suspended license, and leaving the scene of an accident when the motorist is cited for violating a state law instead of a local municipal ordinance.
In the event that both the U.S. Attorney and the Cook County State’s Attorney carry the authority to prosecute a specific criminal case, the two offices may work in collaboration with each other in order to decide on the best course of action for the case, before it is pushed forward and filed in federal court or in the Cook County Circuit Court. Such cases where both the U.S. Attorney and the Cook County State’s Attorney have jurisdiction over, include public corruption, illegal gun sales and possession, street gang criminal conspiracies, illicit enterprises, and financial crimes.
What is an order of protection?
An “order of protection” is a court order that may be sought in Criminal Court, Civil Court, or in Juvenile Court that can be entered by a judge in order to protect a family or a member of the household from physical abuse, harassment, or intimidation by another individual belonging to the same household.
Often referred to as a “restraining order”, an order of protection is limited to individuals who have a direct relationship, such as blood relationship, sharing a common dwelling, a dating or engagement relationship, or those who are personal assistants or caregivers for a disabled person. Individuals who are not directly related, including those that are neighbors or acquaintances, may not be able to acquire an order of protection.
An individual may file for an order of protection in conjunction with the filing of a criminal charge in Criminal Court or a delinquency petition in Juvenile Court. Otherwise, the Civil Court accepts filing for an order of protection without the criminal or delinquency case.
A citizen can seek an order of protection in Criminal Court in conjunction with the filing of a criminal charge, in Juvenile Court in conjunction with the filing of a delinquency petition, or in Civil Court if there is no criminal or delinquency case. After a court hearing, a judge may order specific solutions to cease the abuse, which may include certain orders such as an order prohibiting further abuse, harassment, or intimidation; an order concerning providing for the physical care or custody of a child; an order granting exclusive possession of a residence, an order to stay away from the petitioner or from the petitioner’s place of employment, a school, or other specific places; or an order for counseling. These orders may be obtained on an emergency basis for 14 to 21 days, for a temporary period for up to 30 days, or for a fixed period of time that cannot extend for more than two years, depending on the appropriate course of action.
What is the difference between a civil and criminal order of protection?
The primary difference between a civil and criminal order of protection is in what the applicant is required to have obtained or completed before a specific type of protective order may be acquired. To file for an order of protection in criminal court, either a police report documenting the crime must be available and should have criminal charges be filed or have the offender must have been arrested and charged with a domestic-related crime. Assistance with criminal orders and filing for criminal order of protection in the city of Chicago is provided by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The Office may be contacted through Telephone at (312) 325-9220 or may be brought to 555 W. Harrison, 1st floor, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. for a consultation with an attorney about available options. For suburban Cook County requests, applicants will be directed by the State’s Attorney staff to appropriate location.
In contrast, to file for an order of protection in civil court, there is no need to acquire police reports; however, a proof and history of abuse must be shown in order to obtain a civil order of protection. Available specific solutions are given by the judge to address abuse, harassment, or intimidation are similar for all cases filed in the different courts, but it is important to note that the Civil Court best addresses remedies, including child custody, visitation, and maintenance. Assistance with civil order of protection may be obtained from the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office through Telephone at (312) 325-9500 or through the office located on the 1st floor at 555 W. Harrison Street, Chicago.
Updated: September 2, 2020