It has never been more politically dangerous to possess a gun. Due to widespread hysteria over firearms, Cook County prosecutors are under political pressure to seek jail time in gun cases, even for people with no criminal background.
The guide on this page focuses on the most common firearm crime I see as a Chicago gun crimes lawyer: Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon, also known as AGG UUW. There are many other gun and weapons crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies and covering throwing stars to rifles:
- Armed Habitual Criminal,
- Reckless Discharge of a Firearm,
- UUW by a Felon,
- UUW by a Gang Member.
But, if you're charged with AGG UUW, it's because one of several factors was present, such as the gun was loaded or you didn't have an FOID. I'll go into these in more detail below.
Whether you had a gun because you wanted to protect yourself and loved ones in a dangerous world, or you just love guns because they are beautiful and a lot of fun if enjoyed responsibly, here's what you need to know if you're being charged with AGG UUW:
The Basics of AGG UUW in Illinois
The first thing you should know is that AGG UUW is a felony punishable by 1-3 years in jail. [720 ILCS 5/24-1.6]
If you've ever been convicted of a felony anywhere, it is punishable by 3-7 years.
A conviction for AGG UUW stays on your record forever and cannot be removed by expungement.
AGG UUW is NOT probationable. The only way someone charged with AGG UUW is not going to jail is:
- Getting charges reduced through settlement negotiations with prosecutors,
- Taking advantage of alternative sentencing options,
- Beating the case with a pretrial motion or
- Beating the case at trial.
As I said earlier, there are several factors that, added to unlawful gun possession, can take your case from a plain old UUW to an "Aggravated" UUW; here are a few:
- The firearm was uncased and loaded and it was immediately accessible, or
- The firearm was uncased and unloaded, but the ammunition was immediately accessible, or
- You did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID), or
- You had a gun and also had cocaine, heroin, meth or a misdemeanor amount of weed, or
- Had an order of protection issued against you within the last two years.
Note: You do not have to “use” or shoot the gun to be charged, possession is enough.
How to Beat a UUW Case
Next to getting the prosecutor to reduce charges, the primary objective is beating the case, whether through pretrial motions or, if that fails, at trial.
So how do you beat a gun or weapons case? As a Chicago UUW lawyer, I have seen many ways to do this:
Challenge the Stop. So many guns and weapons cases arise out of traffic stops: you are pulled over for a traffic violation such as “improper lane change” or “speeding” and the police search the car and find a gun.
But why did the police stop you? Was it really for a traffic violation? Do they have proof of it? If the traffic stop isn't done according to proper procedure and protocol the prosecutor cannot use anything that comes after it as evidence.
Challenge Possession and Knowledge. Maybe the weapon was not found on you, but in the car you were driving, in your home or in a home you were staying at.
All of these are cases in which you can challenge possession of the weapon. Just being close to or around a gun or weapon is not enough to convict you of UUW. You have to have possessed it. If the gun was someone else's, you are not guilty of unlawful use of a weapon.
- Attack the Search Warrant. Guns are often found after police execute a search warrant on a home. Search warrants are subject to strict rules both in obtaining the search warrant and executing them. A flaw or failure to follow even one of these rules can totally negate the search warrant and beat the case.
Constitutional Challenges. I won't go into the constitutional debate here; suffice to say there has been a major correction in Illinois and Chicago gun laws over the last several years.
I am proud to say that, as a Chicago lawyer who handles gun charges, I was on the frontlines of this struggle. I even successfully sued the government in federal court on behalf of a client who was being prosecuted via unconstitutional gun laws.
The new law is very young and still vulnerable to constitutional attack using the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, equal protection, due process and, of course, the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.
Interpret the Statute Creatively and Always Know About New UUW Cases. The UUW statute is incredibly long and detailed…a perfect breeding ground for technicalities and loopholes.
For example, what counts as a gun being “cased”? Is the center console of a vehicle a “case”? It certainly is, not because it says so in the law, but because the statute is not 100% clear and a judge had to fill in the grey area.
This is just one example; the experienced Chicago weapons crime lawyer will be ever-alert for such opportunities in his client's case.
Let's Have a Conversation
If you're the type of person who values experience and discipline in the people who serve you, get in touch. Since 2005, I, Chris M. Shepherd, have helped hundreds facing felony and misdemeanor accusations defeat the charges or at least control the damage they can cause. If there is a way to beat your case, I will find it. If there is a way to settle your case quickly while keeping your record clean, I will find it. On the way, phone calls and email will be answered promptly and you will have direct access to me personally.
For a free and confidential 15-minute consultation, call me at 312.396.4112 or contact me online.