Earlier this fall, the Illinois State Supreme Court ruled on one aspect of an important issue that Illinois has wrestled with for a very long time: gun possession. In People v. Aguilar, the Supreme Court ruled on an issue pertaining to felony crimes and weapons charges when it struck down an Illinois statute it deemed unconstitutional as against Illinois citizen’s Second Amendment rights. Several months later, Illinois criminal defense attorneys are assisting clients throughout the state “undo” weapons charges convictions under the now defunct statute.
The facts of Aguilar were contested at the trial level. Officers testified that they witnessed some young men throw bottles at passing cars and saw the defendant holding his waistband. They then followed the young men, who went into a backyard. An officer saw the defendant hold a gun in his hand and tackled him, ultimately gaining possession of the weapon. Witnesses for the defense essentially testified that the defendant did not have a gun and that the backyard belonged to one of the defendant’s friends, with whom he was walking at that time. The defendant was charged and convicted under Illinois law 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A), which criminalizes the possession of weapons outside of a person’s home.
After reviewing precedent regarding the constitutionality of gun control laws, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no such precedent outlawing the possession of firearms outside of the home. The Illinois State Bar Association reported this month that the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the unconstitutionality of the statute has spurred defense attorneys to revisit convictions under that law. According to the article, not only have state prosecutors been dropping weapons charged against defendants who were charged under the statute, but defense attorneys are also seeking to vacate convictions based on the law. In Cook County alone, prosecutors are reported to be dropping weapons charges against approximately 80 defendants due to the Supreme Court’s decision on the law.
It is important to note that the Aguilar decision does not do away with the entire aggravated unlawful use of weapons statute, but rather only the provisions that prohibit gun possession outside of the home. Now some criminal defense attorneys in Illinois are pushing for an extension of the Aguilar ruling to the entire statute. Notably, those defense attorneys would even like to see the provisions of the statute regarding those who do not have a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID card) also fail under the Aguilar ruling.
As the Aguilar case demonstrates, weapons charges in Illinois are not only very seriously considered and prosecuted, but they are also very complicated. A defense strategy against weapons charges may include defenses based on violations of criminal procedure and constitutional rights. A defense strategy, in light of the Aguilar ruling, may also include vacating a conviction based on the statute. If you have been charged with violating Illinois criminal laws, your best chance of successfully defendant the charges against you is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact an attorney at Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.