Unlawful Use of a Weapon
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The state of Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. If you would like to obtain a weapon in Illinois or plan to pass through the state with a weapon, it is important to understand the law because any violation of the state’s Unlawful Use of Weapons (UUW) law is automatically charged as a felony. This means jail time will always a possibility if you are convicted. If you have been charged with a UUW violation, you should contact an Illinois lawyer who has a successful track record working with weapons charges as quickly as possible. The sooner you discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney, the better chance you will have of resolving the charge without serving jail time.
If you are an Illinois resident, you must have a valid FOID card (Firearms Owners Identification Card) in order to possess a firearm in Illinois. You can apply for a FOID card on the Illinois State Police website. Illinois does not recognize any other form of registration or identification when it comes to its residents possessing firearms. Without a valid FOID card, you can be charged with a UUW violation. Similarly, if your FOID card has expired, even very recently, you can be charged with felony possession of a weapon.
If you are a resident of another state and are coming to Illinois with your firearm, you must be in compliance with the laws of your state. In addition, you should be aware of the strict carry laws of this state. You must carry your weapon unloaded and in a proper case.
Illinois will not issue FOID cards to people who have previously been convicted of a felony (including as a juvenile), domestic abuse, assault or battery, or to people who have had a restraining order taken out against them in the past two years, or to people who have been a patient in a mental facility within the past five years. Since these individuals cannot obtain a FOID card, it is a violation of the UUW for them to possess a firearm at any time. This includes keeping a firearm in the home or car or carrying a loaded or unloaded weapon.
Even with a valid FOID card, Illinois never permits the carrying of loaded, concealed firearms; this is a violation of the UUW. Even open carry of loaded weapons is banned under the UUW. There is an exception for hunting, although residents still need a valid FOID card, and non-residents need to be eligible to possess a firearm in their state. A valid FOID card is even required for residents carrying or transporting an unloaded weapon in Illinois. In addition, the possessor – whether they are a resident or non-resident – must have the unloaded firearm enclosed in a case, and the case must not be immediately accessible. Violation of any of these points is a felony violation of the UUW.
If you have complied with all aspects of the UUW, you must still comply with local ordinances as well. Cook County (including the city of Chicago) has banned assault weapons, and Chicago has also effectively banned handguns. So, even with a FOID card, you cannot carry an unloaded, encased, inaccessible handgun in your car in Chicago.
A few other situations that are barred under Illinois UUW law include: possession by someone under the age of 21, unless they are involved in exempted activity, like hunting; possession by someone using or selling illegal drugs; and possession by someone committing a misdemeanor.
Illinois also has an “aggravated” UUW charge which carries even harsher penalties than regular UUW violations. Activities that qualify as aggravated UUW include possessing a firearm while engaged in certain types of gang activity and possessing a firearm while committing a felony. The penalty for violating the UUW while committing a felony is a minimum 15 year prison sentence.
If you have been charged with a weapons violation, or if you need further information on obtaining or transporting weapons in Illinois, we can put you in touch with an attorney experienced in Illinois’ weapons law. For help finding a lawyer with this background, please call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form and we will contact you. Your inquiry will be confidential.