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Chicago Firearm Charges
Get Help from a Skilled Chicago Weapons Crimes Defense Lawyer
On July 7, 2020, a 26-year-old man in Springfield, IL, shot at a violent intruder who broke through a window of his home. Police agreed the shooting was justified, but the young man was still charged with a firearm-related felony called Armed Habitual Criminal (AHC). This is because the young man had previously been convicted of two forcible felonies: Burglary and aggravated battery. In Illinois, A conviction of two forcible felonies prohibits you from possessing a firearm under any circumstances.
The 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The 2nd Amendment's application is expanding in Illinois; however, gun owners, dealers, and collectors must still comply with state and federal laws that regulate these weapons. Illinois' gun laws are listed under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 through 720 ILCS 5/24-3. For example, Illinois requires prospective gun owners to complete a background check and wait at least three days before purchasing a gun. Illinois also completely prohibits some lethal items, including fully-automatic machine guns, armor-piercing bullets, and silencers.
If you’re facing weapons charges in Chicago, it’s important to contact a skilled defense attorney immediately. I, attorney Thomas C. Hallock, am just a phone call away. Contact (888) 412-3741 today!
FOID: Firearm Owner's Identification Card
In Illinois, you need a FOID card to lawfully purchase and possess a firearm. It is a Class A misdemeanor to possess a gun without a FOID card, assuming you were eligible to obtain a FOID card. A subsequent arrest for this crime becomes a Class 4 felony under 430 ILCS 65/14(b), assuming you still are eligible for a FOID card.
However, it is a Class 3 felony to possess a firearm without a FOID card if you were ineligible to obtain a FOID card at the time of your arrest. A third or subsequent arrest for this crime becomes a Class 1 felony under 430 ILCS 65/14(c).
Types of Weapons Offenses in Illinois
Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW): Did you know that you can be charged with unlawful use of a weapon in Illinois for simply possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon, even if you do not discharge it? Charges can range from a misdemeanor to class X felony, the most serious felony charge. For example, it is unlawful to:
- possess a firearm in a public place, on government property, or at a religious such as a church or synagogue
- possess a firearm at or near a place licensed to sell alcohol, or when you are hooded or otherwise attempting to conceal your identity
- possess a machine gun or even parts that can be assembled into a machine gun
Exceptions to the UUW charge include:
- if the firearm is broken down into a non-functioning state
- if the firearm is not immediately accessible to you (e.g., it is in the trunk of your vehicle and you are the driver)
- if the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a case
- if the firearm is carried by a person with a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card or concealed carry permit
Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon (AUUW): A weapons charge can be upgraded to “aggravated” if you possess it in public or your vehicle without proper documentation, and if the firearm is loaded, uncased, and immediately accessible to you.
Chicago AUUW charges are typically Class 4 felonies but can be upgraded to a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 years, depending on the person's prior convictions.
Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon (UUWF): If you have been convicted of a felony in Illinois or any other state, it is unlawful for you to possess a firearm or firearm ammunition in Illinois. Even if police are searching your home for a different reason, finding a firearm in your home could open you up to a UUWF charge.
Chicago UUWF charges are typically Class 2 or 3 felonies but can be upgraded to a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years, depending on the person's prior convictions.
Armed Habitual Criminal (AHC): If you have previously been convicted of two or more of any combination of a forcible felony, firearm-related charge and/or drug charge, you could be charged with AHC if you receive, sell, possess, or transfer a firearm.
An AHC is considered a Class X felony that carries a prison sentence of 6 to 30 years, does not qualify for probation and could potentially carry a life sentence without eligibility for parole.
The search method, arresting officer’s conduct and chain of custody of the firearm are all important considerations in a firearm-related charge. If you are charged with a gun offense or a related crime, contact an experienced Chicago defense attorney like Thomas Hallock. Call (888) 412-3741 for a free initial consultation to learn how Attorney Hallock can aggressively and effectively combat any allegations against you.
Defenses to Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) Charges in Illinois
Unlawful use of a weapon (UUW) is one of several weapons-related criminal offenses in Illinois. The UUW statute pertains to many different types of weapons — some more common and others quite bizarre. The statute criminalizes intentional sale, manufacturing, purchasing, or possession of knuckle weapons, throwing stars, devices that propel blades as projectiles, and switchblade knives, and a host of other weapons you may not have considered illegal.
Most Chicago UUW charges concern firearms, and there are many ways to defend against these charges. A knowledgeable firearm criminal defense attorney will know what to look for to combat UUW charges effectively. Defenses include:
Valid Permit: Possessing a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card will protect you from criminal charges in most instances. However, there are still places in Illinois where you cannot carry a weapon even with a permit, such as schools, courthouses, restaurants that serve alcohol and other public places.
Additionally, if you have a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card or work for a manufacturer or seller of firearms, you can possess a switchblade knife.
Improper Behavior from the Police: Even if the facts are not in your favor, law enforcement still must follow certain protocols to obtain evidence in a firearms case against you. For example, an illegal search of your vehicle or residence that results in a gun charge is enough to potentially dismiss your firearms charge.
Further, if you are not read your Miranda rights or afforded legal representation and don’t want to waive the right to such representation, anything you say during an interrogation related to your weapons charge likely cannot be used against you in court. An experienced firearms lawyer can argue any possible defenses to strengthen your case.
The Firearm was Unloaded and/or Disassembled: A Chicago attorney like me can argue that your firearm was unloaded and not readily available, such as being located in the trunk of your vehicle as you were driving. Additionally, if you disassembled your firearm so that it couldn’t function, unless it’s a machine gun, is not necessarily unlawful to possess.
Training Courses or Other Demonstrations: A solid defense to possessing a gun on or near a school property is that you were undergoing a training course at that school. Additionally, certain events like raffles, sales, or firearm demonstrations can be defenses to unlawful possession charges.
Consent from School: In some situations, you may transport a weapon across school property for a variety of reasons. If the firearms are unloaded and enclosed in a suitable case, box or other packages, and you have the consent of the appropriate personnel at the school, you may enlist this adequate defense to your Chicago UUW charge.
First Time Offender
To promote rehabilitation rather than punishment in some circumstances, the state of Illinois established the First Time Weapon Offender Program. A defendant may be eligible for the program with the consent of the prosecuting attorney if:
- the underlying offense is a Class 4 felony or lower
- the underlying offense is non-violent
- the defendant does not have prior convictions or probationary periods for violent offenses under the laws of any state or federal law
- the defendant has not participated in the First Time Weapon Offender Program previously
- the defendant was not adjudicated a delinquent minor for a violent offense
- the defendant is at least 21
- the defendant does not have any existing protection orders issued against him or her
The prosecuting attorney and court will look at the facts and circumstances of the offense, the maturity and mental capacity of the defendant, the potential risk to public safety, and whether the circumstances warrant the defendant to participate in rehabilitation. A defendant must plead guilty to the underlying charge, and if accepted into the rehab program, the conviction will be delayed until it ends. If the program is successfully completed, the charges can be dismissed.
In Illinois, some violent crimes that are committed with a firearm automatically result in an enhanced sentence. Where applicable, the following enhancements apply:
- 15 years is automatically added to the sentence if the crime was committed while "armed with a firearm."
- 20 years is automatically added to the sentence if, during the commission of the crime, the defendant "discharged a firearm."
- 25 years up to life is automatically added to the sentence if, during the commission of the crime, the defendant "discharged a firearm that proximately caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or death to another person."
Contact an Experienced Chicago Gun Crime Defense Lawyer
There are many other creative ways to fight UUW charges, and only a proven, effective Chicago gun crime defense attorney will know what questions to ask to ensure you are adequately represented. If you are charged with a firearm-related crime in Chicago, Illinois, call attorney Thomas Hallock at (888) 412-3741 to schedule a free consultation.
What You Should Do
- Be respectful.
- Calmly record the interaction.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If you do not ask, the officer may think - and the judge may agree - that the interaction is consensual.
- If you are free to leave, go! If you are not free to leave, do not answer and questions before speaking with your attorney.
What You Should Not Do
- Do not physically resist arrest.
- Do not become aggressive or confrontational.
- Do not consent to a search. The Constitution does not apply if you consent.
- Do not answer questions without first speaking with your attorney. Police are allowed to hold you for 48 hours and they may lie to you the entire time.