weapons-chargeHave you been arrested on weapons charges in Chicago? An accusation of illegal possession or use of a weapon can result in serious criminal charges with stiff prison terms and fines.

If you’re facing weapons charges, it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Michael J. Petro has decades of experience defending individuals charged with crimes related to weapons. He can help you understand the law and how to mount an effective defense.

Illegal Possession of a Weapon

Weapons charges can fall under the categories of possession or use. Possession refers to simply having certain types of weapons, and someone does not have to be injured by the weapon for criminal charges to be filed.

For instance, you can be arrested on an unlawful possession of a firearm charge regardless of whether you’re accused of using the weapon. In some jurisdictions, no one is allowed to possess specific types of weapons, such as switchblades, brass knuckles and certain guns. In addition, certain categories of people — such as convicted felons — are restricted from owning weapons.

In many weapons charges cases, the prosecution focuses on proving that a defendant possessed a weapon illegally — whether due to the category of weapon or the category or person possessing the weapon. Penalties for illegally possessing a weapon tend to be less harsh than penalties for using a weapon against another person.

Use of a Weapon During Commission of a Crime

In some cases, weapons charges focus on the use of a weapon during the commission of another criminal offense. Crimes in which a weapon is used often are called aggravated offenses; for example, an assault can become an aggravated assault when a weapon was used.

Simply threatening to use the weapon in the commission of another crime — rather than actually using the weapon — often is enough to constitute elevation of a charge to aggravated status.

If you are accused of possessing a gun while committing a crime like robbery, you may be arrested on felony weapons charges. Even if a suspect doesn’t display or mention a weapon during commission of an alleged crime, punishment can be harsher simply because of having the weapon.

Illinois Weapons Laws

Under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have a right to possess weapons, but there are legal limits to the right. State law in Illinois limits the conditions under which guns and other weapons may be carried.

Since 2013, the state has allowed individuals to carry concealed weapons if they have the proper license. However, individuals who have felony convictions are not allowed to carry a gun or to get a concealed carry permit. The law also prohibits concealed carry permits for certain other categories of people, including individuals who are:

  • Under 21 and don’t have the consent of a guardian or who have been convicted of a misdemeanor other than a traffic offense.
  • Addicted to narcotic drugs.
  • Recent mental patients or suffering from a mental condition that may pose a danger to self or someone else.
  • Intellectually disabled.
  • Untruthful on the application for the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card.
  • In the United States illegally.

The state of Illinois prohibits certain weapons for everyone, including silencers, explosive bullets, machine guns, grenades and bombs, sawed-off shotguns, metal knuckles, poison gas with the exception of pepper spray, and others. The law makes exceptions for law enforcement and certain types of hunting.

Defending Against Weapons Charges

Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may argue that you did not possess or have access to the weapon in question in an illegal possession case. Another possible defense strategy is that the weapon was not illegal in the state of Illinois.

For charges related to using or displaying a weapon illegally, you may have used the weapon as an act of self-defense. In addition, your attorney may seek to prove that the item was not a weapon.

If you’re charged with another crime that is aggravated by the alleged use of a weapon, your attorney may be able to convince the court to reduce the charge by disproving the weapon allegation.

Work with an Experienced Defense Attorney

If you are arrested on weapons charges, you need assistance from an attorney who is knowledgeable about all state and federal laws and who has significant experience with the Illinois court system. Call Attorney Michael J. Petro at 312-913-1111 for the legal assistance you need.