Armed Violence

Chicago Armed Violence Defense Lawyer

Armed Violence under Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33A-2

Gun crimes lawyer in Chicago, Illinois.

Armed violence is a serious offense in Illinois, and it is crucial for those charged with this crime to understand the legal landscape, potential penalties, and the importance of a robust defense. As a seasoned criminal defense attorney with decades of experience, I have seen how these charges can impact lives. I will now provide comprehensive information on armed violence under Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33A-2, including the statute itself, relevant laws, penalties, the criminal case process, potential defenses, and the necessity of having experienced legal representation.

Understanding the Statute and Relevant Laws

Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33A-2 defines armed violence as committing any felony while armed with a dangerous weapon. The statute specifically states that a person commits armed violence when they carry or possess a dangerous weapon or firearm while committing a felony offense. This law enhances the severity of the original felony charge due to the presence of a weapon, reflecting the increased potential for harm.

The statute distinguishes between different types of weapons:

Category I Weapons: These include firearms such as handguns, sawed-off shotguns, and other firearms that can discharge bullets. The presence of these weapons significantly increases the penalties.

Category II Weapons: These include other types of dangerous weapons like bludgeons, metal knuckles, and knives with blades longer than three inches.

Category III Weapons: This category includes less common weapons but still dangerous, such as brass knuckles and similar items.

In addition to 720 ILCS 5/33A-2, several other statutes may be relevant in armed violence cases. These include laws related to the underlying felony offense and additional charges that may arise from the possession of the weapon. For instance, if the underlying felony is drug trafficking, statutes under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act will also apply. Similarly, if the weapon used is a firearm, the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card Act may come into play, particularly if the defendant does not possess the necessary licenses.

Understanding these statutes is crucial for anyone facing armed violence charges, as it helps clarify the full extent of the legal issues at hand.

Penalties and Punishments for Armed Violence

The penalties for armed violence in Illinois are severe and can have life-altering consequences. The law categorizes armed violence based on the type of weapon used and the underlying felony, resulting in a range of potential penalties.

For armed violence involving a Category I weapon (firearm):

  • If the underlying felony is a Class 3 or Class 4 felony, the offense is elevated to a Class X felony, carrying a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and up to 30 years.
  • For a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, the mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years and can extend up to 30 years.
  • If the underlying felony is inherently violent or involves a firearm discharge, the penalties can be significantly harsher, with sentences ranging from 25 years to life imprisonment.

For armed violence involving a Category II weapon:

  • The offense is classified as a Class 2 felony if the underlying offense is a Class 3 or Class 4 felony, with a prison term of 3 to 7 years.
  • If the underlying offense is a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, the armed violence charge is elevated to a Class X felony, with a mandatory prison sentence of 10 to 30 years.

In addition to imprisonment, those convicted of armed violence face other consequences:

  • Fines: Convictions can include substantial fines, often up to $25,000, depending on the severity of the crime and the discretion of the court.
  • Probation and Parole: While probation is typically not an option for Class X felonies, it may be considered for lesser charges under certain circumstances. After serving a prison sentence, parole conditions may also apply, requiring strict compliance with various rules.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A conviction for armed violence results in a permanent criminal record, which can severely impact employment opportunities, housing options, and other aspects of life.

Understanding these penalties underscores the importance of a strong legal defense to mitigate or avoid the harsh consequences of an armed violence conviction.

Long-Term Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

The consequences of a criminal conviction for armed violence extend beyond the immediate legal penalties. A conviction can have profound and lasting effects on various aspects of your life.

Employment prospects are significantly impacted by a criminal record. Many employers conduct background checks as part of the hiring process, and a conviction for armed violence can raise serious concerns about your reliability and trustworthiness. This can make it difficult to find a job or advance in your career, leading to long-term financial instability.

Educational opportunities can also be affected by a criminal conviction. If you are a student or plan to pursue higher education, a conviction can hinder your ability to obtain financial aid, scholarships, and admission to certain programs. Many educational institutions consider criminal records during the admissions process, and a serious conviction like armed violence can be a significant barrier.

Housing options are often limited for individuals with a criminal record. Landlords and property management companies typically conduct background checks on prospective tenants, and a conviction for armed violence can make it challenging to secure housing. Landlords may view you as a higher risk tenant, leading to rejections and difficulties in finding a place to live.

Insurance rates can increase significantly following a conviction for armed violence. Auto and other types of insurance companies view individuals with a criminal record as high-risk, resulting in increased premiums or even denial of coverage. This can add to the financial burden and complicate your ability to obtain necessary insurance.

Professional licenses and certifications are at risk following a criminal conviction. If you hold a professional license, a conviction can jeopardize your standing in your profession. Many licensing boards consider criminal records when reviewing applications for licensure or renewals, and a conviction for armed violence can lead to revocation or denial of your license, affecting your ability to practice your profession.

Personal relationships can suffer due to the stigma associated with a criminal conviction. Family, friends, and colleagues may view you differently, leading to strained relationships and social isolation. The impact on your reputation can be profound, affecting your social interactions and standing within your community.

Understanding the full scope of these long-term consequences highlights the importance of defending against armed violence charges and seeking legal assistance to protect your future.

The Criminal Case Process in Illinois

Navigating the criminal case process for armed violence charges in Illinois can be complex and overwhelming. Understanding the key steps involved and the importance of legal representation at each stage is crucial for anyone facing these charges.

The process begins with an arrest, where you are taken into custody by law enforcement officers. Following the arrest, you will go through booking, where your personal information, fingerprints, and photographs are recorded. This is a critical time to ensure your rights are protected, and having an attorney present can make a significant difference.

After booking, you will have an initial appearance before a judge, where the charges against you will be read, and bail conditions will be set. An experienced attorney can argue for reasonable bail terms or your release on your own recognizance, helping to mitigate the immediate impact of the charges.

During the pretrial phase, both the defense and prosecution gather evidence and build their cases. Pretrial motions may be filed to address various legal issues, such as requests to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or obtain discovery materials. An attorney can identify and pursue strategic motions to strengthen your defense and challenge the prosecution’s case.

Plea bargaining often occurs during the pretrial phase, where the prosecution and defense negotiate to resolve the case without going to trial. An experienced attorney can negotiate on your behalf to secure a favorable plea agreement, potentially reducing charges or penalties.

If the case proceeds to trial, both sides will present evidence and arguments before a judge or jury. Your attorney will represent you in court, cross-examine witnesses, and present a robust defense. The trial’s outcome will determine whether you are convicted or acquitted of the charges.

If convicted, the court will impose a sentence during the sentencing phase. An attorney can advocate for leniency and argue for alternative sentencing options, such as probation or community service, to minimize the impact of the conviction.

If there are grounds for appeal, your attorney can file an appeal to challenge the conviction or sentence. This involves reviewing the trial record for legal errors and presenting arguments to an appellate court. An experienced attorney can navigate the appeals process and work towards achieving a favorable outcome.

Defending against accusations of armed violence requires a strategic approach tailored to the specifics of your case. Several potential defenses can be effective in challenging these charges.

One common defense is the lack of intent. The prosecution must prove that you knowingly and intentionally carried or possessed a dangerous weapon while committing a felony. If you can demonstrate that you did not have the requisite intent, this can be a strong defense. This may involve presenting evidence that the weapon was not intended for use during the felony or that you were unaware of its presence.

Another potential defense is challenging the legality of the search and seizure. If law enforcement officers conducted an unlawful search or seizure, any evidence obtained as a result may be inadmissible in court. This can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case and potentially lead to the dismissal of charges.

Self-defense can also be a viable defense if you can show that you carried or used the weapon to protect yourself from imminent harm. This defense requires demonstrating that your actions were necessary and proportionate to the threat you faced.

Mistaken identity is another defense strategy, particularly if you can provide an alibi or challenge the evidence tying you to the weapon or the felony. This defense involves demonstrating that you were not the person who committed the offense or possessed the weapon.

Constitutional violations, such as the violation of your right to a fair trial or due process, can also be grounds for dismissing the charges or suppressing evidence. An experienced attorney can identify and argue these violations to protect your rights and challenge the prosecution’s case.

FAQs about Armed Violence under Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33A-2

What is armed violence under Illinois law?  

Armed violence is defined under Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33A-2 as committing any felony while armed with a dangerous weapon. This law enhances the severity of the original felony charge due to the presence of a weapon.

What types of weapons are considered under the armed violence statute?  

The statute categorizes weapons into three types: Category I (firearms such as handguns and sawed-off shotguns), Category II (other dangerous weapons like bludgeons and knives), and Category III (less common weapons such as brass knuckles).

What are the penalties for armed violence in Illinois?  

Penalties for armed violence vary based on the type of weapon and the underlying felony. For a Category I weapon, it is classified as a Class X felony with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years, potentially extending to life imprisonment for severe cases. Category II weapon charges can range from Class 2 to Class X felonies, with sentences ranging from 3 to 30 years.

How does a conviction for armed violence affect my criminal record?  

A conviction for armed violence results in a permanent criminal record, which can severely impact employment opportunities, housing options, educational opportunities, and other aspects of life. It also leads to increased insurance rates and potential issues with professional licenses.

What should I do if I am charged with armed violence?  

Seek legal representation immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights, develop a strategic defense, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

How can a criminal defense attorney help with my case?  

A criminal defense attorney can protect your rights, challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution, negotiate for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options, and represent you in court. Their expertise and experience can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

Why You Need an Attorney

Facing charges of armed violence is a serious matter that requires skilled legal representation. Here’s why you need an attorney and why you should choose The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg:

Legal Knowledge: Understanding the complexities of Illinois criminal laws and the nuances of defending against armed violence charges requires in-depth knowledge and experience.

Protection of Rights: An attorney will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal proceedings, from the initial investigation to the trial.

Strategic Defense: Developing an effective defense strategy is crucial for achieving a favorable outcome. An experienced attorney can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and present a strong defense on your behalf.

Negotiation Skills: In many cases, an attorney can negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options.

Emotional Support: Facing criminal charges can be incredibly stressful. An attorney can provide guidance, support, and reassurance throughout the process.

Call The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg For Your Free Consultation

If you are facing accusations of armed violence, don’t face it alone. Contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg for skilled legal assistance. With decades of experience and a commitment to protecting your rights, we offer a free consultation 24/7 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 in Illinois. Let us help you navigate the legal system and fight for your future.

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