Unlawful Use of Weapons

Handgun on table with bullets and cash

If you have been arrested for Unlawful Use of Weapons (UUW) or any other gun charges in Chicago, you need an aggressive Chicago weapons attorney who knows how to win.

The gun laws in Illinois (and especially the City of Chicago) are quite tough. The laws are so tough that even if you were a tourist or visiting Illinois for the first time and get caught with a firearm, you could be charged for Unlawful Use of a Weapon and serve mandatory prison.

Your conduct might not constitute an offense in your own state, but under the laws of the state of Illinois, things are quite different. The charge of Unlawful Use of a Weapon may even constitute an automatic felony if you are arrested in Chicago or elsewhere.

Understand that getting charged for unlawful use of weapons in Illinois is serious business. In situations where the use of a weapon coincides with aggravating circumstances, you could be facing serious prison time without the possibility of probation. In such situations, it will be in your best interest to immediately contact an aggravated unlawful use of weapons attorney.

Many have unwittingly ended up paying heavy fines or spending considerable time behind bars due to delay. An equal number have found themselves serving time because they were told unlawful use of weapons cases are hard to defend.

While cases like these are truly difficult to defend due to the stringent nature of the laws involved, they are not impossible. When you have a top class Chicago weapons attorney working with you, your chances of a positive outcome will be much better.

At Goldman & Associates, we have built a solid reputation for getting results in cases thought almost impossible. We aggressively fight criminal charges in Lake County, Cook County and Dupage County with clients from all over the State of Illinois. Our impressive track record is founded on our recognition that anything less than a positive outcome will considerably change the lives of our clients. We are committed to doing everything possible in order to win your case. Regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor, felony or aggravated unlawful use weapons offense, know that we can help you.

If you were planning to carry a weapon in Illinois, it makes sense to try and understand how the gun laws may affect you. And if you are facing the prospect of criminal charges for unlawful use of weapons, this article helps you understand what to expect and how a Chicago weapons lawyer can help you.

What amounts to an unlawful weapon in Illinois?

There are several items, besides a firearm, that could constitute unlawful weapons under Illinois law. If you are found in unauthorized possession of any of them, you could face an unlawful weapons charge. Under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 These weapons include:

  • Bludgeons and black-jacks (thick sticks used for beating),
  • Slung-shots: These are weights tied to ropes, used just like a flail. They are not the same as slingshots
  • Sand-clubs and sand-bags: Containers used filled with sand and used for hitting.
  • Metal knuckles or another knuckle weapon regardless of its composition
  • Throwing stars
  • Switchblade knife
  • Ballistic knife, which are devices that propel a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas.
  • Daggers, dirks, billies (batons), dangerous knives, razors, stilettos
  • Broken bottles or other pieces of glass
  • Stun guns or tasers or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character.
  • Tear gas gun projector or bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas or substance

Apart from these, some types of guns are completely forbidden in Illinois. This means that you cannot legally own them in the state. They include:

  • Rifle barrels that are shorter than 16 inches
  • Machine guns. These are defined as any weapon capable of firing more than one shot without your needing to reload it.

It is worthy of note though that the laws on stun guns have changed slightly. In a recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, the Taser/Stun Gun ban was deemed unconstitutional. The Court ruled that with the way the law was written, a license was required to have one in a person’s home.

This ruling will force the state of Illinois to rewrite this section to clarify that only possession of tasers and guns outside the home will require a license to carry.

Why your Second Amendment rights may not be as effective in Illinois

Illinois has very restrictive gun laws. The Illinois gun laws, contained in Statute 720 of the Criminal Code 2012, prohibit persons from carrying firearms visibly in public, and is one of five states that do so. In 31 other states, an “open carry” of firearms is allowed, without requiring any permit, though the gun must be unloaded.

So, while your Second Amendment rights might allow you to keep and bear arms, the manner of the keeping and bearing is still subject to state laws. In Illinois, those laws restrict the types of arms you can carry and the manner in which you can carry them.

Illinois law also does not recognize out-of-state-issued permits. This essentially means that while you might have a permit to carry a concealed weapon on your person in your own state, the state of Illinois does not recognize it.

As such, you cannot legally go around town carrying a weapon concealed in your coat. If you are found with a weapon on you, you may be charged with an Unlawful Use of Weapons offense. You can carry a concealed weapon only if you have a State of Illinois license to carry. This license is known as a “Concealed Carry Permit”.

If you have been charged for unlawful use of a weapon because you either did not possess or carry your concealed carry permit, you need to contact a Chicago weapons attorney immediately. Your unlawful use of weapons lawyer in Chicago can help you get the charges dismissed.

Illinois Concealed Carry Permit

A Concealed Carry Permit is a document that licenses you to carry a concealed firearm in public. This means that you cannot carry a firearm with you while in public unless you have a permit.

The law defines a concealed firearm as a loaded or unloaded handgun carried on or about a person completely or mostly concealed from view of the public. If the firearm is on your person within a vehicle, it also qualifies as a concealed firearm.

The law also defines what would qualify as a handgun. According to the regulations,  a handgun is any device that is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas, or escape of gas. It is a handgun if it is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. It does not include any of the following:

  • A stun gun or taser
  • A machine gun
  • A short barreled rifle or shotgun
  • Any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paintball gun or B-B gun that fires a projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter. If the gun has a muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second, or expels breakable paint balls containing washable marking colours, then it’s not a handgun.

What this means is that you cannot possibly obtain a concealed carry permit for any of these weapons.

The State of Illinois is a “shall issue” state, which means that the Department of State Police shall issue a license to carry a concealed firearm to applicants. Failure to obtain the required permit may subject you to arrest, and this makes you liable to an Unlawful Use of Weapons charge. To apply for a Concealed Carry Permit, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Have a valid Firearms Ownership ID Card or at least qualify for receiving one.
  • Not be prohibited under the FOID Act or federal law from possessing or receiving a firearm.
  • Have completed firearms training and education requirements provided by an Illinois State Police (ISP) instructor. The firearms training requires sixteen hours of training which cover the following:
    • Firearm safety
    • Principles of marksmanship
    • Care, cleaning, loading and unloading of a concealable firearm
    • Applicable state and federal laws relating to ownership, storage, carry and transport of a firearm
    • Appropriate interaction with law enforcement while carrying a concealed firearm.
  • Be able to provide proof of the last ten years of residency.

The Firearms Owners Identification Card was created in 1968 by the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act, 430 ILCS 65. It was meant to provide a means of regulating possession and acquisition of firearms and firearm ammunition as part of a public safety initiative in the State of Illinois.

To start the process of obtaining one, you can download a FOID card application from the Illinois State Police web site at www.isp.state.il.us.

Why are the firearms and unlawful weapons laws so strict in Illinois?

The strictness of the law is predicated on the number of crimes involving firearms in the state. In 2016, Chicago recorded its highest homicide rate in two decades with a record number of 762 people killed.

When compared with the rate for other big cities in the country, Chicago’s was number one. Other states that made the list include New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore and Newark.

The majority of these homicides in Chicago were gun-related, with most of the guns being illegally smuggled in from other states.

According to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the guns were purchased from border states such as Indiana and Wisconsin, where the gun laws are not as strict. He said people from Chicago went across the border, filled up gym bags with illegal weapons from gun shows and sold them to gangs back in Chicago.

The alarming spate of violence and gun crimes prompted the governor of Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign a new gun control law. The law imposed harsher penalties on those who brought in guns from out of state to sell without having FOID cards.

Before this law was passed, it was common for gun owners caught for the first time without proper identification to be charged with a misdemeanor and locked up for less than a year. Repeat offenders were usually given up to five years. The new law introduced harsher punishments to try and stem the tide.

The bill was signed into law at the Illinois State Police (ISP) crime lab in Chicago by the governor, who was joined by the House Republican Leader, Jim Durkin and the Senate Republican Leader, Christine Radogno, both chief legislative sponsors of the bill.

What constitutes an Illinois unlawful use of weapons offense?

In spite of the term “Unlawful Use”, you should know that you don’t necessarily have to be caught using an unlawful weapon or committing a crime. Mere possession is enough to constitute an offense. Doing any of the following will amount to an offense:

  • Selling, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing or carrying unlawful weapons including:
    • Bludgeons and black-jacks, slung-shots, sand-clubs and sand-bags or metal knuckles
    • Throwing stars, switchblade knives or ballistic knives
  • Carrying or possessing the following with intent to use the same unlawfully against another person:
    • Daggers, dirks, billies (batons), dangerous knives, razors, stilettos
    • Broken bottles or other pieces of glass
    • Stun guns or tasers or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character.
  • Carrying on or about your person or in any vehicle any of the following:
  • Tear gas gun projector or bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas or substance
  • There may be exceptions to this if the object contains a non-lethal noxious liquid gas or if the substance was designed solely for personal defense. Also, the carrier or user must be at least 18 years old.

The Unlawful Use of Weapons charge comes into play under certain factual circumstances. They include:

  • Possession of a handgun when less than the age of 21
  • Having a handgun in your possession during a misdemeanor drug offense
  • Possession of a loaded weapon that is immediately accessible in your vehicle
  • Being in possession of a firearm without a valid FOID card
  • Possession of an unloaded firearm with ammunition readily available in your vehicle.
  • Possession of a firearm during a gang-related activity.
  • Possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent misdemeanor.

In the case of a machine gun, simply owning or possessing parts which can be put together to create a machine gun can lead to some serious jail time.

Other situations in which you may be charged with Unlawful Use of Firearms

If you carry a firearm in any of the following places, you may be charged with an Unlawful Use of Weapons offense.

  • Public or private elementary or secondary school.
  • Pre-school or child care facility
  • Any building, parking area, or part of a building under the control of an officer of the executive or legislative branch of government
  • Circuit court, appellate court, or the Supreme Court
  • Any building or part of a building under the control of a unit of local government
  • Adult or juvenile detention or correctional institution, prison, or jail
  • Public or private hospital or hospital affiliate, mental health facility, or nursing home
  • Public bus, train, or form of transportation paid for with public funds
  • An establishment that serves alcohol on its premises, if more than 50% of the establishment’s gross receipts within the prior 3 months is from the sale of alcohol
  • Any public gathering or special event conducted on property open to the public
  • Any building or real property that has been issued a Special Event Retailer’s license
  • Public playground
  • Public park, athletic area, or athletic facility
  • Property under the control of the Cook County Forest Preserve District
  • Any building, classroom, laboratory, medical clinic, hospital, artistic venue, athletic venue, entertainment venue, officially recognized university-related organization property, including parking areas, sidewalks, and common areas under the control of a public or private community college, or university
  • Gaming facility licensed under the Riverboat Gambling Act or the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975, including an inter-track wagering location
  • Any stadium, arena, or the real property or parking area under the control of a stadium, arena, or any collegiate or professional sporting event
  • Public library, airport, amusement park, zoo or museum
  • Any street, driveway, parking area, property, building, or facility, owned, leased, controlled, or used by nuclear energy, storage, weapons, or development site or facility regulated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by Federal Law.

The fact that you were arrested in circumstances amounting these related above is not fatal however. As unlawful use of weapons lawyers in Lake County and Cook County, we have handled all sorts of cases involving charged for unlawful use of a weapon. In many of these cases, there are often circumstances that either mitigate or call into question the commission of an offense. This is why it is imperative that you contact a Chicago weapons attorney immediately after being arrested in any one of these circumstances.

What is the punishment for unlawful use of weapons?

The penalties for a firearm offense in Illinois are very stiff. The penalties for unlawful use of weapons in Illinois are classified into three different categories. They are possession without a permit, license or certificate; possession by minors and possession by convicted felons.

Possession without required permit

Penalties for possession or purchase of a handgun without a required permit, license or certificate attracts the following penalties:

  • For possessing or acquiring a handgun with an expired FOID card but the person is not otherwise disqualified from renewing it, the offense is a class A misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to one years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
  • If the person does not have a valid ID card (other than an expired one as specified above) but is otherwise eligible. The first offense is a class A misdemeanor. A next offense is a class 4 felony and is punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
  • If the person’s ID card has been revoked or is subject to revocation, the card is expired and not eligible for renewal, or the person does not have a valid card and is not otherwise eligible, the penalty is a class 3 felony. This is punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.

Penalties for possession by minors

Federal law generally prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from possessing a handgun. Most states also set a minimum age for the possession of handguns or unlawful weapons. In Illinois, the minimum age is 18, although exceptions are made for minors to carry guns while hunting or on a shooting range and also with their parents’ permission.

Unlawful possession of handguns by minors is classified as a class 4 felony, and is punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.

Possession by a convicted felon

This is a Class 3 felony and it is punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up $25,000, or both.

Possession or use of firearms carries the most severe punishment

There are other situations in which possession or use of firearms attracts very severe punishments. They include:

Possession of a firearm or ammunition by a prohibited person

This is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The offender may receive a minimum sentence of 15 years without parole if they have three or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence. Examples of such offenses include burglary, robbery, assault, possession of offensive weapons and/or drug trafficking felony. A prohibited person includes:

  • A felon or anyone awaiting trial on felony charges
  • Drug users or addicts
  • A person subjected to a domestic restraining order. The order must prohibit contact with an intimate partner, or child of the person, and must have been issued the restraining order only after a hearing of which the person was notified and at which the person had an opportunity to participate. The order must also find that the person poses a threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child or must prohibit the use, threatened use or attempted use of physical force.
  • A person that has a prior conviction for domestic assault
  • A fugitive from justice
  • A legal alien
  • A medical marijuana patient registry card holder
  • A person who has failed a drug test within the past year, unless that person had a prescription
  • A person dishonorably discharged from the military

Knowing possession or sale of prohibited firearms

When a person knowingly possesses or manufactures any of the following, they commit an offense punishable with up to 5 or 10 years depending on the specific violation.

  • Any machine gun, fully automatic firearm or any part designed or intended exclusively for use in such weapon
  • Any firearm silencer, including any device, or part thereof, designed to silence, muffle or diminish the report of a firearm
  • Sawed-off shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18″ or overall length less than 26″
  • Sawed-off rifle with a barrel length of less than 16″ or overall length less than 26″
  • Destructive device
  • Semi-automatic assault weapon manufactured after October 1, 1993; OR
  • Any firearm which lacks a serial number or contains an altered or obliterated serial number.

Use of firearms during a robbery

Under the Illinois Sentencing Guidelines for Robbery, use of a firearm during a robbery attracts extremely severe punishment. The guidelines prescribe a mandatory minimum of 21 years’ jail time and the sentence may increase considerably depending on the circumstances of the offense.

Other firearms offenses

Other serious offenses that involve firearms include:

  • Knowingly selling, giving or otherwise disposing of any firearm or ammunition to a prohibited person, the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • Using, carrying or possessing a firearm in relation to or in furtherance of a drug felony. The punishment ranges from at least 5 years to life imprisonment without parole or a death sentence, if the use of the firearm resulted in death.
  • Stealing a firearm, ammunition or explosive. The offense is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
  • Using firearms in a school zone, which is punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment.
  • Selling, delivering or transferring firearms to a Juvenile. The crime is punishable by up to 1 year in jail. If the person transferring knew that the juvenile would commit a crime of violence with the firearm or ammunition, and still sold it to the juvenile, the punishment is up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Aggravated firearms offenses

When firearms are used in certain circumstances, they are considered as worsening the offense. These are aggravated circumstances. The Illinois statute defines aggravated discharge of a weapon as firing a gun in any of the following ways:

  • In the direction of a person: Regardless of one’s intent or the level of provocation, it is illegal to fire a gun at another person.
  • In the direction of a building
  • In the direction of a vehicle

Aggravated firearms discharge is classified as a Class 1 felony, and may result in up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.

If the gun was discharged within 1,000 feet of a school, park, bus or school activity, the offense will amount to a Class X felony.

A Class X felony could also result for discharging the firearm in the direction of or a vehicle occupied by any of the following classes of people while they are in the lawful exercise of their duties:

  • Law enforcement officer
  • An employee of a correctional facility
  • Community volunteer with the police
  • Firefighter
  • Paramedic/EMT
  • Teachers or school employees present on school grounds
  • Emergency management worker

A person convicted for a Class X felony, could spend anywhere between six and thirty years in prison, pay a fine of up to $50,000, or both. Probation may last one to three years.

Clearly, being convicted for unlawful use of weapons in aggravated circumstances will lead to very hard jail time. Your best chance at any kind of possible outcome will lie in how fast you can get in touch with an aggravated unlawful use of weapons lawyer in Chicago. Depending on when you contact the attorney, your Chicago weapons attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.

Procedure for lawful acquisition of a firearm in Illinois

Despite the strict position of Illinois law, it is still possible to lawfully own a firearm. You can acquire firearms from either a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) gun dealer or in a Private Citizen Transfer.

If you are acquiring your firearms from an FFL gun dealer in Illinois, you must:

  • Possess a valid FOID card.
  • Verify local firearm ordinance requirements
  • Display your FOID card to the FFL dealer prior to handling the firearm.
  • Complete Federal Form ATF 4473.

The FFL dealer must notify the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the Firearms Services Bureau to perform a background check in accordance with state and federal laws. They must receive approval from the ISP before the firearm can be transferred to the buyer.

The buyer must also abide by the State of Illinois’ waiting period before taking possession of the firearm. The waiting period for a long gun is 24 hours and 72 hours for a handgun. The firearm must be unloaded and enclosed in a case for transport.

Acquiring or transferring firearms from a private citizen is a bit different. A private citizen is defined as “Any person who is not a Federal Firearms Licensed gun dealer who desires to acquire or transfer firearms”. Acquiring or transferring firearms from a private citizen in Illinois requires the following:

  • Both the Seller and Buyer must possess valid FOID cards.
  • Both the Seller and Buyer must verify local firearm ordinance requirements.
  • As a buyer, you must display your valid FOID card prior to handling the firearm.
  • As a buyer, you must abide by the State of Illinois waiting period before taking possession of the firearm. The waiting period for a long gun is 24 hours and 72 hours for a handgun.
  • The seller must keep a record of such transfer for a period of 10 years from the date of transfer.
  • The record must contain the date of the transfer, the description, serial number, or other information identifying the firearm if no serial number is available.
  • Upon transfer of possession, the firearm must be unloaded and enclosed in a case to transport

Why is there a waiting period before possession of a firearm in the State of Illinois?

The waiting period between buying and actual possession of a gun is called the “cooling-off” period. The idea behind this “cooling-off” period is to give provide a reflection period before purchase and use of the weapon.

This period is calculated at giving the buyer room to cool down and lower emotions, in the event that the purchase of the gun was made in the heat of anger. By having had time to cool down before handling a firearm, the risks of a shooting are considerably lowered.

How an experienced unlawful use of weapons lawyer in Chicago can help?

With the strict nature of gun laws in Chicago, it is relatively easy to run afoul of the law while trying to either exercise your Second Amendment right or make a living for yourself.

Being faced with such serious charges can be a terrible experience, and being convicted of the can be so much worse. The consequences of a criminal conviction range from a difficulty to secure good jobs to issues with obtaining admission into good colleges. It can even interfere with one’s ability to access loans and welfare aids.

These scenarios make for very grim living and they are better avoided. If you have been charged with an unlawful use of weapons offense, you will need our experienced unlawful use of weapons lawyer in Chicago in your corner.

At Goldman and Associates,  we understand that there are always two sides to a story. Our job is to ensure that your side of the story is heard. Call our offices today on 847.215.2600 or 773.484.3131 to speak with a Chicago criminal defense attorney.

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