Jun 29

Today’s blog will break down a significant appellate court decision that challenges part of the firearm laws in Illinois. Specifically, the Illinois Appellate Court declared that it was unconstitutional to ban loaded firearms from within 1,000 feet of any school.

Factual Background

This case dates back to November 20, 2012. Around 3:15 p.m. on that day, a teacher at a Chicago high school saw a vehicle parked near school grounds. The teacher also saw a man dressed in black and carrying a holstered firearm.

An assistant principal at the school also noticed the man and vehicle near school grounds. After learning from the teacher that the man had a weapon, the assistant principal approached the vehicle. At this point, the man was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle. The assistant principal asked if the man was a police officer. The man replied that he was a security guard.

Concerned for the safety of their students, the school officials placed a 911 call. When police officers arrived, they found the man in the passenger seat of his vehicle with an empty holster. But a search of the vehicle uncovered a pistol and a magazine full of ammunition.

Circuit Court Case

After this incident, the man faced two counts of unlawful use of a weapon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1. Specifically, the man faced criminal charges for possessing a loaded, accessible firearm:

  • In a vehicle (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4)); and
  • On a public street (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(10)).

The trial court determined that the man was guilty on both counts. Normally, each offense would be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. Because the man committed both offenses within 1,000 of a school, he was convicted of a Class 3 felony under 720 ILCS 5/24-1(c)(1.5).

Appellate Court Review

After suffering an adverse result at trial, the man filed an appeal, alleging a violation of Second Amendment rights. In reviewing this case, the Illinois Appellate Court employed the standard two-step test for evaluating Second Amendment violations.

The Illinois Appellate Court underlined that it was permissible to ban firearms on school property or grounds, but the ban on firearms within 1,000 feet of any school was overly broad. The absence of warning signs or a clearly marked boundary made it difficult to comply with the ban. Overall, the court determined that this ban was an unconstitutional infringement of Second Amendment rights.

Given the unconstitutional nature of the ban on firearms within 1,000 feet of any school, the court overturned the man’s convictions.

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the criminal offense, all criminal charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at johnprior@thepriorlawfirm.com or by completing an online form.

(image courtesy of Aaron Burden)