On Thursday I obtained a Not Guilty verdict at 26th and California after a bench trial for a client Charged with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon By a Felon. UUW By a Felon is a Class 2 felony in Illinois which carries a mandatory prison sentence between 3 to 7 years. Probation is not available for a defendant convicted of UUW by a Felon. Therefore, the consequences of a conviction would have been tragic for my client. He would have had to serve a minimum of 3 years in prison if he had been convicted.
At the trial the police officer testified that he had received a call over the radio of a suspicious vehicle in a high crime neighborhood in Chicago. Within a couple of minutes the officer and his partner arrived at the location and observed a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle parked on the street. They noticed that inside the vehicle there was the driver, front seat passenger and rear seat passenger. After a couple of minutes they saw the vehicle pull away. They started following the vehicle and pulled it over. The officer testified that when he approached the vehicle he noticed that the front seat passenger was making movements and when he looked at the back seat he saw my client sitting on a long box that looked like it contained a long rifle with the words “Cabela’s” written on it. He ordered the occupants out of the vehicle and he and his partner began searching the vehicle. They opened the box that my client was sitting on and found a loaded rifle with a scope. On the rear floor of the vehicle they recovered a loaded semi-automatic firearm. The officer testified that the gun on the rear floorboard was “two feet” from where my client had been sitting. They also recovered a loaded revolver in the glove compartment in front of the front seat passenger. They checked the identities of the occupants of the vehicle and discovered that my client had a prior felony conviction, for which he had served prison time. They then charged my client with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon.
On cross examination I was able to get the officer to admit that the female driver had informed him that she was the owner of the weapons. He determined that she had a valid Firearm Owners Identification Card and when they ran a trace with the FBI for the firearms, they discovered that the rifle was registered to the driver but that the handguns were not registered to anyone. The officer admitted that the driver of the car had told her that she had not told my client that there were guns in her car and did not know that he was a convicted felon. I also had the officer admit that my client did not make any statement to him admitting that he knew that the guns were in the car or that he had seen my client physically handle any of the firearms that were found inside the vehicle.
I called the driver of the car to testify. She testified that the guns found inside her vehicle were owned by her. She testified that she had a valid FOID card and that she had not told my client that the guns were inside the vehicle. She testified that earlier in the evening she had gone to the shooting range with her boyfriend. As they were driving home they saw my client walking on the sidewalk. Her boyfriend was good friends with my client so they pulled over and picked him up to give him a ride home. Almost immediately they were pulled over by the police. The state tried to get the witness to admit that the handguns found inside the vehicle belonged to the front seat passenger and the defendant, however, the witness insisted that the guns belonged to her.
After closing arguments the judge found my client not guilty. He said that the state had failed to prove their case and that both the police officer and the witness were believable and that he could not determine that what the state was claiming was true after hearing all the evidence. My client had spent roughly 7 months in Cook County Jail before I was able to have the court lower his bond and make him eligible for Electronic Monitoring. If he had lost this case, he would have been sent back to jail. Instead he walked out of court a free man.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients against gun charges. If you have a gun case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.