Gun Charges Defense in Chicago
Gun laws in Illinois are complicated, and if you’re charged with a weapons violation, you need an experienced attorney who understands those laws. And because most gun cases are the result of law enforcement officials who find weapons during a traffic stop or a search of some kind, you also need an attorney who is well versed in the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures.
In my many years of practice, I have dealt with hundreds of these kinds of cases in Chicago and Cook County. My comprehensive knowledge can work in your favor when dealing with prosecutors and courts in all kinds of weapons-related charges.
To legally carry a firearm in Illinois, you must obtain a handgun license, known as a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card. To qualify for a FOID card, you must be at least 21 years old (or 18 with a parent’s permission) and a legal resident or U.S. citizen. You cannot be a convicted felon, or a minor convicted of some misdemeanors, not addicted to some controlled substances, or be mentally impaired.
Unlawful Use of Weapon (UUW)
A person violates the Illinois law of Unlawful Use of a Weapon when they carry a pistol or another firearm, and they are not at their home or place of business and do not possess a valid FOID card. The offense also extends to a person who possesses a switchblade, brass knuckles, a dagger, Taser or even a broken bottle to be used as a weapon. Minimum penalties for a UUW offense, which is a misdemeanor, can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
You can also be charged if you do not transport your firearms in an enclosed case in an unloaded capacity.
Unfortunately, because Illinois gun laws are complicated, even law abiding citizens can get tripped up on UUW charges, even for something as simple as forgetting to carry your FOID card on you. That can lead to a revocation of your FOID card and perhaps land you in jail.
Illinois law also permits individual cities and towns to create their own laws restricting guns. This means what is legal where you currently reside may not be the case just a few short miles away from you.
Monitoring and understanding the laws in these different jurisdictions requires the skill and interpretations of an experienced gun laws lawyer. If you have been charged under one of these UUW laws, or have had a run in with a local jurisdiction, it’s imperative that you contact me as soon as possible to help you navigate through a potentially complicated legal matter.
UUW Felony Charges
The Unlawful Use of a Weapon charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony if one or more aggravating factors are present.
If you are in possession of a gun in a bar while wearing a hood or a mask, the UUW charge is elevated to a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison, a $25,000 fine and a minimum of a one-year parole term.
If you possess a shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches long or a gun with a silencer, you can be charged with a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-5 years in prison, up to a $25,000 fine and a minimum of a one-year parole term.
In addition, you can also be charged with a Class 2 UUW felony is you are found in possession of some kind of explosives or certain kinds of long guns or machine guns. This is punishable by 3-7 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, and a two-year parole term.
Certain aggravating circumstances can result in a Class 1 or Class X felony charge. These factors can include being a repeat gun offender, committing gun infractions at a school or a park, or firing into an occupied building or vehicle, or shooting a public official such as a firefighter or teacher. Class X felony convictions can result in sentences of up to 30 years in prison, up to a $25,000 fine and a three-year parole term.
Under Illinois law, a person can be convicted of the crime of armed violence if he or she commits a felony and they are armed with a dangerous weapon. Many people believe that this only includes firearms, but being in possession of other weapons also qualifies under this statute. Charges like this are generally added on to a defendant who is being charged with other felonies as a means of ensuring additional punishment. Sentences will vary widely depending on whether or not serious harm is done to a victim.
If you’ve been charged with armed violence in connection with the commission of another felony, it’s important to contact me as soon as possible. The best chance at protecting your rights happens when I can get involved in the process as early as possible. That’s because the earliest stages of a criminal investigation generally have the biggest impact on your ability to mount an effective defense. The evidence is better preserved early on, mistakes by the police are easier to spot, and you will spend less time and money overall.
Armed Habitual Criminal
In Illinois, being charged as an armed habitual criminal is an extremely serious charge, requiring immediate legal representation. Being charged as an armed habitual criminal is considered a Class X felony, and conviction will bring a prison sentence of 6 to 30 years.
This is considered a weapons offense. A person commits the offense if he or she receives, sells, possesses or transfers any firearm after having been convicted two or more times of certain other offenses. These offenses can include forcible felonies, the unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, vehicular hijacking, home invasion, intimidation, gunrunning, aggravated battery with a firearm, or any Class 3 felony or higher committed under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act.
Fortunately, there are many possible defense strategies I can employ to work in your favor. In cases like these, I always examine whether appropriate search and seizure laws were followed, and I will aggressively challenge the candor and presentation of facts by law enforcement to cast a reasonable doubt that may result in dismissal or a reduction in charges.