On January 1st, a new law will adjust the Illinois Criminal Code to safeguard churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, according to an article by The Pantagraph. More specifically, this new law amends the statutes governing murder, aggravated battery and assault, and unlawful use of weapons.
Introduced as House Bill 38, this measure passed through both houses of the Illinois legislature in less than a year. The governor signed this bill into law on August 9th as Public Act 101-0223, with an effective date of January 1, 2020.
Once this law becomes effective, several statutes within the Illinois Criminal Code will change, including those relating to first-degree murder, aggravated battery, unlawful use of weapons, and aggravated assault.
Moving forward, first-degree murder under 720 ILCS 5/9-1 will include additional provisions. Specifically, it will qualify as first-degree murder if the victim was:
- A member of a congregation;
- Engaged in prayer or other religious activities; and
- At a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship.
The penalty for first-degree murder will remain the same under 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-20. Upon conviction for this crime, the offender usually faces a prison sentence between 20 and 60 years. Though in certain cases, the offender can face an extended term of 60 to 100 years — or even a life sentence — in prison.
Aggravated battery under 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05 will also change in several ways. Starting in January, any standard battery crime committed at a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship will qualify as aggravated battery.
Under Section 12-3.05, the baseline charge for aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony. Upon conviction for this class of felony, the offender ordinarily faces criminal fines up to $25,000 and a prison sentence between two and five years
But in the new year, aggravated battery will become a Class 2 felony under certain conditions. This elevated charge will apply when the perpetrator knows — or should know — that the victim is a congregation member engaged in religious activities.
Unlawful Use of Weapons
There will be several updates to unlawful use of weapons under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 as well. In 2020 and beyond, unlawful use of weapons will include carrying or possessing a firearm in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship. Though the perpetrator must demonstrate the intent to use the firearm.
Beginning in January, unlawful use of weapons at a place of worship will be a Class 2 felony. Furthermore, each weapon constitutes a separate violation of the law. Upon conviction for a Class 2 felony, the offender ordinarily faces criminal fines up to $25,000 and a prison sentence between three and seven years
Aggravated assault under 720 ILCS 5/12-2 will experience an update also. In the new year, any assault committed at a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship will qualify as aggravated assault.
Under Section 12-2, aggravated assault is a Class A misdemeanor. Upon conviction for this class of misdemeanor, the offender ordinarily faces criminal fines up to $2,500 and a maximum of 364 days in jail.
Do You Need Legal Help?
No matter what the criminal offense, all 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing an online form.