Monday, December 3, 2012

"I DIDN'T KNOW THE GUN WAS THERE!": UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF A FIREARM IN ILLINOIS

The police came after your roommate, and in the process, found a pistol in your closet. You didn’t even know the gun was there, but now you are charged with a felony.

Can you be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm? What can you do?

As of January 1, 2012, Illinois law prohibits possessing a firearm or ammunition if a) you are under 18 and have a weapon that could be concealed; b) you are under age 21 and have been convicted of a misdemeanor, c) you are a narcotics addict; d) you have been mentally disabled or e) you possess an explosive bullet. (720 ILCS 5/24-2.1) Unlawfully possessing a firearm under these circumstances is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year, unless you have a handgun, which is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 4 years.

In Illinois, a convicted felon can also be charged with a Class 3 Felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years. A street gang member can be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 10 years.

As with other crimes, the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They must show that you either actually or constructively possessed the gun. Actual possession is easy to prove. Finding the gun on your person could be enough.

But what if the gun was in your car or your home and its ownership is unclear? To prove constructive possession, the state must show that you knew about the gun and that you had immediate and exclusive control where the gun was found. Therefore, if the gun was buried in the back of your closet, and your boyfriend regularly used that closet, you might be able to prove the gun wasn’t yours.

If you are charged with illegal possession of a weapon, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your case in the best possible light. Did the police have grounds to stop you or search you? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney, who is respected at the court house, can often work out a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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