720 ILCS 5/24-1.1

This week I finally resolved a client’s case after months of negotiating, fighting and waiting for the prosecutor to come to their senses. My client was charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon, more commonly known as UUW by a felon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1. Under this law, it is illegal for a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm in the state of Illinois. UUW by a felon also includes ammunition, whether a firearm is involved or not. Being charged under this law carries a minimum penalty of 3 years in prison.

I can see the original logic of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1. Legislators wanting to avoid previously convicted felons from possessing firearms so that the public can rest easy knowing “criminals” do not have the ability to commit future violent crimes. Unfortunately, in my client’s situation the facts supported the law but not the reality.

My client was having repeated arguments with the woman who lived upstairs from him. The reality is, living in city apartments means dealing with neighbors who are very close and in this case, literally on top of you. This evening, my client went upstairs to address the noise and an argument broke out. The woman upstairs called the police and before the police arrived my client went back to his apartment and considered the situation finished. When the police arrived, they entered his apartment without a warrant, detained my client and removed him from this apartment. The police then, went into his apartment, without my client’s permission and began to search. For what they were searching for I will never know but they did find one single bullet in the residence. As a result, my client was arrested. When the police arrested my client, they did not know what his background was. My client had received probation 14 years ago for possession of a stolen motor vehicle or (PSMV) under 625 ILCS 5/4-103. This is a non-violent offense but because be took a conviction for this offense he is considered a convicted felon for purposes of UUW by a felon. So now he was facing 3 years in prison for a single bullet and a mistake he made 14 years ago. Is this justice? I certainly didn’t think so.

We challenged the entry of the police into the residence on constitutional grounds. After being confronted with the facts and legal challenges, the prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges to disorderly conduct, the lowest misdemeanor offense in Illinois and my client walked out of court on supervision for 1 year, no risk of going to prison and most importantly, without a criminal case hanging over his head.

This scenario happens everyday but if you do not have the proper legal representation to identify the issues and challenge the case you may also be facing significant prison time. Contact The Law Office of Purav Bhatt at 773-791-9682 to discuss your matter.