What is a “402 Conference” or a Pre-Trial Conference in Illinois? What it is and What You Need to Know.

402-ConferenceA Pre-trial conference is the usual way that a criminal case is resolved in Illinois without the need to go to trial. The Pre-trial conference is a meeting that occurs between the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, and the judge. The meeting is usually, but not always, behind closed doors, and the parties all get together to discuss the case to see if there’s a way to work out an agreement short of trial. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402 allows for this conference to happen and sets forth the requirements for such a conference to occur. That’s why this type of conference is commonly called a “402 Conference” by lawyers and judges.

Supreme Court Rule 402 provides that a judge cannot request that the parties have a “402 Conference”. The request for a “402 Conference” has to be made by the lawyer for the defendant and the prosecutor must agree to participate in that conference. After the lawyer for the defendant requests that the court participate in a “402 Conference”, the court will admonish the defendant about what will happen at this conference and make sure that the defendant agrees to allow this conference to happen.

The judge will inform the defendant that the prosecutor will be present at this conference and will tell the judge about the facts of the case and what the witnesses are expected to say at trial. Many of the things that the judge will hear he would not normally hear unless the case went to trial. Some of the things that the judge will hear may not even be allowed to be introduced into evidence at trial. The judge will also find out about your criminal background. This is something that the judge would not hear about unless you were found guilty and the case proceeded to a sentencing hearing. At the same time, the judge will hear things about you that will be presented by your lawyer. Again, these are things that the judge may or may not hear about at the trial.

After the judge hears all these things, the judge will make a recommendation about what an appropriate sentence should be so that the case can be resolved without having to go to trial. If you are not satisfied with a judge’s recommendation, you cannot use the fact that the court conducted a “402 Conference” and heard things about the case and about you that the court should not have heard about to request a new judge. You cannot use the fact that the judge knows all these things about you and about the case to request a new judge for your trial.

At the same time, the judge’s recommendation is not binding on any of the parties.  It’s just a recommendation and the parties are free to accept or reject the recommendation. However, as a practical matter, the judge’s recommendation at a “402 Conference” can carry great weight. For a criminal defense lawyer, it gives you a general idea of what the judge thinks of the case and what the judges general attitude is about the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s case. As a criminal defense lawyer, you know what your client is likely looking at if the case went to trial and they were found guilty. Every judge is different when it comes to the results of a “402 Conference”. Some judges will put great pressure on both sides to accept their recommendation. Other judges are okay with simply making a recommendation and not putting any pressure on any party to accept or reject it. Some judges are so highly respected that prosecutors rarely reject a judge’s recommendation. Every judge in every county is different. That’s why it’s very important that you make sure that the lawyer that you hire to represent you has experience handling cases before your judge so they know how to deal with a particular judge and how to guide your case through the legal process so that you can obtain a successful resolution of your case.

James Dimeas, is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, criminal defense lawyer, with over-27 years of experience handling criminal cases in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the Year 2018 and 2019” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney” and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys awarded James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas is rated “Superb” by AVVO, the highest classification possible for any criminal defense lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys recognized James Dimeas as a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.

If you are facing criminal charges in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, or Lake County, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation.  You can always talk to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources

Supreme Court Rule 402.

Additional Blogs

The Kane County Deferred Prosecution Program – Avoid a Conviction – Keep Your Record Clean, James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 28, 2017.

TASC Probation in Illinois for Substance Abuse Treatment, James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 22, 2017.