How To Fight Gun Possession By A Felon Criminal Charges in Chicago

Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C.

In Chicago, as in the rest of Illinois, the laws surrounding gun possession are particularly stringent when it comes to individuals with a felony record. The state takes a firm stance on preventing felons from acquiring or possessing firearms, underscoring the potential consequences of violating these laws. This article will explore the intricacies of fighting gun possession charges if you are a felon, including understanding the relevant Illinois statutes, navigating the criminal justice process, and why effective legal representation is critical.

In Illinois, the Unlawful Use of Weapons statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1) specifically prohibits a person who has been convicted of a felony from possessing or purchasing any firearm or firearm ammunition. This law is designed to curb recidivism and enhance community safety by restricting access to weapons by individuals who have previously been involved in criminal activities.

Defining ‘Possession’

Legal possession can be defined in several ways, but in the context of Illinois law, it includes both actual and constructive possession. Actual possession occurs when someone has direct physical control over a firearm. Constructive possession, however, can be attributed to an individual who does not physically have the gun on their person but has the capability and intent to maintain control over it, either directly or through others. This broader definition means that even if a felon does not physically hold the firearm but has it in their home or vehicle, they can be charged with possession.

Penalties for Felon Possession of a Firearm

The consequences of a felon found in possession of a firearm in Illinois are severe. The offense is classified as a Class 3 felony, which can carry a prison sentence of between 2 and 10 years. Additional penalties can include fines of up to $25,000. For those with a prior criminal history, particularly where previous offenses also involved firearm violations, the penalties can be even more substantial, potentially qualifying under the Armed Habitual Criminal statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1.7), which carries a minimum sentence of 6 to 30 years in state prison.

The Arrest Process and Initial Steps

The Arrest

If law enforcement suspects that a felon is in possession of a firearm, the arrest process typically begins with the collection of evidence sufficient to support a probable cause. This can occur through direct observation, tips from informants, or as a result of investigations related to other criminal activity. Once arrested, the individual will be taken into custody and processed at a local police station.

Navigating the criminal case process for a charge of felon possession of a firearm in Illinois involves a sequence of procedural steps that each present unique challenges and opportunities for defense. From the moment of arrest through potential trial proceedings, understanding each phase is crucial for anyone facing these serious allegations. This multi-stage process not only determines the immediate fate of the accused but also has long-lasting implications on their future.

Detailed Breakdown of the Criminal Case Process

The criminal case process is rigorous and layered, designed to uphold the legal rights of the accused while ensuring that justice is served. Each stage of this process requires careful preparation and strategic decision-making, often under the guidance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

Initial Detention and Booking

After an arrest for felon possession of a firearm, the suspect is taken into police custody. During this initial detention, the individual is fingerprinted, photographed, and personal information is recorded. This booking process formally introduces the accused into the criminal justice system. It is also during this phase that the arresting officers will document the circumstances of the arrest, which may include the seizure of the firearm and any statements made by the accused at the time of arrest.

Arraignment and Bail Hearing

The arraignment is the first court appearance following an arrest. During this hearing, the defendant is formally charged, and the charges are read in open court. It is at this point that the defendant will enter a plea—typically, “not guilty” to allow the defense attorney to challenge the prosecution’s case. Additionally, a bail hearing often occurs at the same time, where the judge will determine if the defendant can be released from custody pending trial and under what financial conditions. This stage is critical as it sets the tone for the defense strategy and also impacts the defendant’s ability to engage freely with their counsel for case preparation.

Discovery Phase

Following the arraignment, the discovery phase begins. During this period, the prosecution and defense exchange information relevant to the case. This includes police reports, witness statements, forensic evidence, and any other documentation that either side intends to use at trial. Discovery is vital for the defense as it provides the first opportunity to scrutinize the evidence collected by the prosecution and to identify any potential weaknesses in their case, such as issues with how evidence was collected or potential breaches of constitutional rights.

Pre-Trial Motions

Before the trial commences, several pre-trial motions may be filed by the defense. These can include motions to dismiss the case for lack of evidence, motions to suppress evidence obtained illegally, and motions challenging the constitutionality of the arrest or the search that yielded the firearm. Success in these motions can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case or even result in its dismissal.


If the case proceeds to trial, both the defense and prosecution will have the opportunity to present their arguments, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and submit evidence to the jury or judge (in a bench trial). The trial is the culmination of the criminal case process, where legal theories and defenses are put to the test under the scrutiny of the courtroom. The defense’s goal here is to create reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused regarding the charges they face.

Navigating this complex process requires a comprehensive understanding of both procedural law and the strategic maneuvers that can be employed at each stage. Effective legal representation is indispensable throughout this journey, providing the necessary expertise to challenge the prosecution’s case and to advocate vigorously for the defendant’s rights and freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gun Possession by a Felon Charges in Illinois

What is considered a firearm under Illinois law?
Under Illinois law, a firearm is defined as any device, by whatever name known, which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas, or escape of gas. This includes handguns, rifles, shotguns, and certain automatic weapons. Understanding this definition is crucial as it determines what constitutes illegal possession under the relevant statutes.

How does Illinois categorize different types of firearms for possession charges?
Illinois law distinguishes between different types of firearms and devices. For example, possession of a machine gun or other fully automatic weapon carries more severe penalties than possession of a handgun. Additionally, silencers and explosive bullets are treated with particular severity under the law.

Can illegal gun possession by a felon charges be dropped or reduced in Illinois?
Yes, charges can sometimes be dropped or reduced depending on the circumstances of the case and the strength of the defense strategy. If the defense can successfully challenge the prosecution’s evidence on constitutional grounds—such as arguing that the firearm was discovered during an illegal search—charges may be reduced or dismissed. Additionally, if there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the firearm, the charges might be dropped.

What are the implications for a felon caught possessing a firearm in terms of future legal consequences?
If a felon is convicted of possessing a firearm, the implications extend beyond immediate penalties and include long-term legal consequences. Such a conviction can affect future sentencing under the habitual criminal statutes, significantly increase the severity of penalties for any future crimes, and permanently strip the individual of certain civil rights, like voting and firearm possession.

How can an attorney help in cases of gun possession by a felon?
An attorney plays a vital role in defending against gun possession charges. Legal representation is critical in navigating the complex legal system, crafting a strong defense strategy, and ensuring that the defendant’s rights are protected throughout the criminal justice process. An attorney can challenge the prosecution’s case, negotiate plea deals, and represent the defendant in court. The attorney’s experience and knowledge of local laws and courts are invaluable in these cases.

Is it possible to own a firearm after a felony conviction if the felony has been expunged?
In some cases, yes. If a felony conviction is expunged, the individual’s rights, including the right to own and possess firearms, may be restored. However, the specifics can vary widely based on the nature of the felony and the details of the state law. Legal consultation is essential in these situations to navigate the complexities of the law regarding expungement and rights restoration.

What should someone do if they are a felon and find themselves in a situation where they are near firearms?
If a felon is in a situation where firearms are present, they should remove themselves from the vicinity immediately to avoid constructive possession charges. If removing themselves from the situation is not possible, such as in a shared living situation, it is advisable to seek legal advice on how to proceed without violating the law.

Does having a medical condition affect the legal proceedings for a felon charged with gun possession?
While having a medical condition does not provide a legal defense for gun possession by a felon, it might influence certain aspects of the case, such as sentencing. Courts sometimes consider serious medical conditions as mitigating factors when determining sentences. However, this is highly dependent on the specifics of the case and the discretion of the court.

What steps should be taken immediately if a felon is arrested for gun possession?
If arrested, it is crucial to exercise the right to remain silent and request an attorney immediately. Avoid discussing the case with anyone but your lawyer, including discussions in jail, on the phone, or with other inmates, as these can be recorded or used against you in court.

How can I find out more about defending against gun possession charges in Illinois?
For more detailed information and personalized legal advice on defending against gun possession charges in Illinois, consider reaching out to The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg. With years of experience in criminal defense and a deep understanding of Illinois gun laws, we are prepared to provide you with the defense you need. Contact us 24/7 for a free consultation at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442. We serve clients across Chicago and its surrounding counties, offering expert guidance and robust defense strategies tailored to your unique situation.

Given the complexities of firearm laws in Illinois and the severe penalties associated with a conviction for a felon possessing a firearm, skilled legal representation is indispensable. An experienced attorney can navigate the nuances of the law, challenge prosecutorial evidence, and advocate vigorously on behalf of the defendant.

If you or someone you know is facing charges for gun possession by a felon in Chicago, immediate action is necessary. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg are here to help. With extensive experience in criminal defense and a proven track record of success, we are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for our clients. We offer free consultations 24/7, so do not hesitate to call us at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442. We serve clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, and Lake County. Let us stand by your side and fight for your rights and freedom.

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