Illinois is home moderate gun-ownership laws, especially when compared to the laws in many other states across the country. In fact, the tenet that “the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is proudly memorialized in the state Constitution. However, the state also imposes considerably stringent punishments on those who misuse or abuse this right. If you are charged with a weapons-related crime in Illinois you may face serious jail time, steep fines, and a lifetime of dealing with a criminal record.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a weapons-related crime, your first call should be to an experienced Chicago weapons attorney. Getting a knowledgeable attorney to represent you could be the difference between probation and serious jail time. The skilled weapons attorneys at Kostopoulos Law Group, LLC are well-versed in the complicated Illinois weapon and gun laws and understand the tactics prosecutors employ to get convictions. This knowledge allows us to offer exceptional legal representation to clients charged with weapons crimes in Chicago. When we represent our clients, we work tirelessly to protect their rights and to ensure we exhaust all avenues of defense when fighting weapons charges in Chicago. When you call us, we will review the details of your case, investigate potential defenses, and develop a legal strategy to fight the weapons charges against you.
Weapon Related Crimes in Illinois
Before you can understand Illinois weapon and gun crimes you must be able to identify what a weapon is for the purposes of the law. Illinois defines a deadly weapon as either an object that qualifies by law (such as a firearm, knife, or poison) or an object that could be used in a manner that could case death. Examples of objects that could be considered deadly weapons – if used in the assault or battery of another – include broken bottles, rocks, or pipes.
What conduct, then, is illegal if you own, use, or possess a deadly weapon? Illinois is home to relaxed gun and weapon ownership laws, but also to steep consequences for abuse of those rights. Unlawful Use of Weapons [720 ILCS 5/24-1] is perhaps the most expansive of Illinois’ weapon-related laws. The name of the statute itself is somewhat misleading, as violation does not require the actual use of a weapon. Rather, possession in unlawful circumstances or in certain locations is enough to warrant arrest and criminal charges. You may be charged with unlawful use of a weapon in Illinois if, when possessing a weapon, you:
- Do not have a valid Firearm Ownership Identification Card (FOIC);
- Are a convicted felon;
- Have immediate access to a loaded weapon in your car;
- Have immediate access to an unloaded weapon and ammunition in your car;
- Commit a misdemeanor drug crime;
- Commit a violent misdemeanor;
- Are under the legal age to own a firearm (21);
- Violate an order of court protection; or
- Are engaged in gang-related activity.
Penalties for unlawful use of weapons are automatically elevated if a convicted felon is found in the possession – whether actual or constructive – of a weapon. Illinois prohibits convicted felons from owning or possessing weapons. This includes those in their own home for protection. Many times, felons are charged with this crime after a search warrant is executed on their home and weapons are discovered by police.
Illinois also imposes severe penalties for the discharge of firearms in certain situations. A person may be charged with Reckless Discharge of a Firearm [720 ILCS 5/24-1.5] if he or she fires a weapon in such a way as to endanger the bodily safety of another. A person may be charged with Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm [720 ILCS 5/24-1.2] if he or she knowingly or willfully fires a weapon in the direction of another person or into a building or vehicle known to be occupied. In many cases, charges for Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm are brought concurrently with charges for Attempted Murder if a firearm is used in the attempt.
In Illinois, it is illegal to attempt to kill another person. Attempted First Degree Murder [720 ILCS 5/8-4(a)] is often, but not always, an offense committed with a firearm. If a firearm is used in the course of the attempt penalties are elevated.
Punishments for Weapons Related Crimes in Illinois
Punishments for weapon and gun crimes in Illinois range from probation to serious terms of imprisonment. The penalties awarded upon conviction depend on the specific charges against you, the extent of any injuries or harm inflicted on another, and any prior criminal convictions. If infractions are minor, you may be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or fines of up to $2,500.
Prosecutors have discretion and, in some cases, may agree to probation for first-time offenders. Most weapon and gun-related charges in Chicago, however, are felonies. The specifics of your case will determine the charges against you, but weapon-related crimes are often charged as Class 2, Class 3, or Class 4 Felonies. Prison time associated with these Felony charges range from one to seven years.
In some cases, especially if a weapon is used in the course of an attempted murder, the charges may be a Class 1 Felony, which is punishable by 4-15 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000, or a Class X Felony, which is punishable by 30-6 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. If the target of an attempted murder or aggravated discharge of a firearm the term of imprisonment must be no less than 20 years and no greater than 80 years.
Note, penalties may be elevated if weapons are sold, purchased, used, or possessed on or near certain premises. These include:
- Public Housing Agencies;
- Public Parks; and
- Courthouses or other government buildings.
If you are charged with Unlawful Use of Weapons at or near one of these locations the term of imprisonment, upon conviction, may be extended by 3 to 7 years.
Defenses to Weapons-Related Charges in Illinois
Conviction of a weapon-related crime in Chicago can carry serious consequences. Even if you do not have the intent to harm another person, the mere possession of a weapon in certain situations can be a serious crime. With the assistance of a skilled Chicago weapon crime attorney you may be able to assert a number of defenses to the charges against you. These include:
- Infringement of Constitutional rights;
- Inability to immediately access a weapon; or
- Lack of requisite knowledge.
Many weapons and gun-related charges are based on evidence uncovered during a routine traffic stop. If you believe that your Constitutional rights were violated during an unlawful search – which resulted in police finding a weapon in your vehicle or home – you should contact an criminal defense attorney immediately.
An attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, review police records and logs, and determine whether a search or your arrest were unlawful. If the prosecution is forced to throw out the evidence obtained in an illegal search or arrest they will be less likely to be able to pursue the charges against you.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with a weapon or gun crime in Illinois, you should contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney immediately. A weapon crime conviction can have serious consequences that can affect your ability to enjoy certain privileges in the future. Employers, landlords, and lenders who opt to run a background check will see the conviction on your record and may not choose to approve your application or employment. To maximize your defense, enlist the assistance of an experienced Chicago defense attorney.
At Kostopoulos Law Group, LLC, our attorneys are dedicated to aggressively advocating for our clients’ rights. We are ready to help you fight to protect your rights and reduce the potential penalties you may face. Call us today for a free consultation. We will review the details of your case, identify potential defenses, and explain your legal rights and obligations.