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In the state of Illinois, weapons and gun convictions can carry severe sentences, particularly when defendants have a criminal record and/or the weapons charge is coupled with other criminal charges, such as home invasion, robbery or drug charges. In many cases, weapons charges carry mandatory prison sentences, and those convicted may also face permanent marks on their record, along with heavy fines and community service time.
Because weapons laws are regularly changing, it’s important that those who have been charged with a weapons charge in Chicago and suburban Cook County consult with an experienced criminal attorney at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg to learn more about their legal rights. Mr. Weisberg is a highly skilled legal professional who is dedicated to aggressively defending his clients’ rights in any necessary legal proceedings, including (not limited to):
Weapons charges in a particular case will vary according to the details of the event and whether anyone was injured or killed as a result of the alleged weapons violation(s). The following are the most common weapons / gun charges in Chicago and the suburbs:
Unlawful Use of Weapons / UUW (720 ILCS 5/24-1) is the name for a wide variety of weapons and/or gun charges or offenses in Illinois. Although the term “use” is mentioned, the crime is typically committed by mere unlawful possession of the weapon and not actual “use” of the weapon. This broad statute covers a wide variety of weapons, including, but not limited to handguns, rifles, knives and many other weapons.
The typical UUW charge involves a person who is caught in possession of a handgun or other dangerous weapon. Although the person may have intended no harm with the weapon, it is a criminal offense to be in possession of certain weapons at certain locations or without the proper documentation.
The severity of the charge depends on the type of weapon and the location it was possessed. This charge can be as low as a misdemeanor and as serious as a Class X felony, where the suspect faces jail time or up to 30 years prison time in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Unlawful Use of Weapons by Felon / UUW by Felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1) is an offense that is similar to the charge listed above except the offender is a convicted felon at the time of the arrest. Obviously, convicted felons arrested for new gun charges face much more serious charges and a realistic chance of heavy prison time.
Whereas most gun charges involve suspects carrying guns in their car or on the street, the charge of Unlawful Weapon by Felon often occurs where a gun is found in the home of the suspect. Once a person is a convicted felon, he or she may not possess a weapon at any location, including their own home for protection. Guns are most often recovered in a home when the police come to the location to execute a search warrant.
Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon / Agg UUW (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6) is an offense or charge that in its most common form is a crime involving a person that possesses a firearm on a public street, sidewalk or in a car.
The government must prove that the gun was loaded, uncased and immediately accessible. Therefore, it is a defense to this charge if the gun is actually recovered in such a position that the suspect could not easily reach it. An example would be a person arrested for possessing a gun in their trunk.
It makes sense that a person sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle could not possibly reach a gun in the trunk. Another defense would be that the gun was unloaded. If the gun is unloaded, the defendant should not be convicted of Aggravated UUW. Please note that even where these defenses are used, there may still be other violations caused by the possession of the particular weapon.
Prior to 2011, a person convicted of this crime would usually receive a period of probation with little or no jail time. However, in 2011, the laws changed and became quite harsh. As of January 1, 2011, a person who is convicted of this offense and does not possess a currently valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card (FOID) must serve from 1-3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
This law is tough and can apply to anybody. For example, a 50 year old medical doctor with no criminal record must receive prison time if convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. There are times when a prosecutor may agree to reduce this charge to allow for probation.
It is critical to hire an attorney that gives you or your loved one the best chance at a favorable result. Contact attorney Andrew Weisberg today for a free consultation. Mr. Weisberg is available 7 days a week for the confidential case evaluation.
Reckless Discharge of a Firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.5) is a charge or offense committed when a person discharges a firearm in a reckless manner that endangers the bodily safety of another individual. This is a Class 4 felony that is punishable from 1-3 years in prison but does allow in some instances for probation.
A defense to this crime is that nobody was actually placed in danger by the firing of the weapon. It is not enough for the prosecutor to prove that a defendant fired a gun. The government must also prove that the firing of the weapon actually placed someone in danger of injury. This element of the crime is often difficult to prove because nobody often comes forward to tell police that they were almost hit by a bullet. This charge does carry the possibility of probation.
Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2) is a much more serious charge or offense involving a situation where a person knowingly or intentionally fires a weapon in the direction of another person or into a building or vehicle they know to be occupied. Often when the facts exist to charge aggravated discharge of a firearm, those same facts can be used to charge attempted first degree murder.
In other words, if there is evidence that a person fired a weapon in the direction of another person, it is not a stretch for the prosecution to allege that the shooter intended to kill his or her target. This is generally a Class 1 felony, punishable from 4-15 years in prison. In some instances, this can be charged as a Class X felony, punishable from 6-30 years.
Attempted First Degree Murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a) (720 5/9-1(a)(1)) is a charge or offense in which the suspect is charged with attempting (but not succeeding) to kill another person. In most cases, this crime involves the firing of a handgun. That being said, many individuals are charged with Attempted murder with a knife or other dangerous weapon. The usual penalty for this crime is 6-30 years in prison.
If a gun is used, an additional 15-25 years can be added to the sentence. If the victim is a police officer, the range of sentence is 20-80 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Attempted murder is a difficult offense for the prosecutor to prove. This is because he must prove that the suspect had the actual desire to bring about the death of the alleged victim. An aggressive and talented criminal defense lawyer can effectively challenge such a charge in court.
Keep in mind that the term weapon in these offenses can apply to any deadly weapon, including knives, switchblades, razors and broken bottles, in addition to firearms.
It’s important to note that the state of Illinois requires individuals to have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card in order to legally purchase or possess firearms and/or firearm ammunition.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a gun charge or other weapons violation and are seeking legal guidance from an aggressive criminal attorney, contact the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg to schedule a private consultation with Mr. Weisberg. Mr. Weisberg will sit down with you and listen to all the details of your individual case. He will explain, in-depth, the legal process and potential outcomes to your case so you understand all the possibilities.
When arrested for and facing serious criminal charges, it is critical to find a great criminal defense lawyer who is at the top of his profession. Finding an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best thing you can do to protect your reputation and avoid jail time or prison time. Mr. Weisberg handles all felony and misdemeanor charges in all Cook County courthouses including Chicago (and all branch courts), Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood (Maybrook), Bridgeview and Markham.