Yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court issued one of the most important decisions to come down from this court in a long time. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the main part of the Illinois gun law, also known as the Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon statute, is unconstitutional and can no longer be enforced by judges, prosecutors and police officers. Yet this news has gone largely unreported by the media. This is a major story. The implications are truly significant. For one thing, for defendants currently facing criminal charges for Aggravated UUW, who had a valid FOID card, this means that their cases will be dismissed. This decision opens the door to litigation in which arguments will be made by criminal defendants that their cases should be dismissed even if they did not have an FOID card. My reading of this case makes me think that if you have a valid FOID card you can legally conceal and carry a firearm in public. If my reading of the case is correct, as of yesterday, FOID card holders gained the right to conceal and carry in Illinois. This may change once the State of Illinois sets up the procedures for obtaining the right to conceal and carry from the Illinois State Police, but it seems to me that conceal and carry is now a reality for Illlinois FOID holders. Yesterday’s case was entitled People of the State of Illinois v. Alberto Aguilar, 2013 IL 112116. In the Aguilar case a Chicago police officer observed Aguilar standing with a group of young men. The officer observed Aguilar holding the right side of his waist area as if he had a weapon in his waist. Eventually the police officer arrested Aguilar and claimed that before he apprehended him, Aguilar dropped a loaded gun. Aguilar was eventually charged with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon because he had a loaded weapon on his person, except when he was on his place of abode and it was uncased, loaded and immediately accessible. Aguilar was also charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Minor because he was only 17 years old. Aguilar was eventually convicted and sentenced to 24 months of felony probation. On appeal Aguilar launched a direct attack on the constitutionality of the Illinois Aggravated UUW statute by claiming that this statute violated the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a stunning decision, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed and struck down the Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon statute. In doing so the Court relied on the United States Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. In doing so the court found the basic right to own and possess a firearm for protection in the home and how the Supreme Court has extended this to outside the home as well. The Court then cited last year’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case of Moore v. Madigan to strike a fatal blow to the Illinois Agg UUW statute. The Illinois Supreme Court basically adopted the holding in Moore v. Madigan. Having said that, the Supreme Court ruled that states are free to impose reasonable restrictions on the right to bear arms but Illinois’ UUW statute is unconstitutional because it imposes a blanket prohibition on the right to carry firearms without any restrictions or exceptions.
Yesterday’s decision is a major vindication for criminal defense attorneys who have been filing Motions to Dismiss Aggravated UUW cases in trial courts throughout the area since the Madigan v. Moore decision only to be treated with scorn and disrespect by prosecutors and judges who have been treating these motions as an annoyance. Now that the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled, they should acknowledge the error of their ways and pay attention in the future to decisions from higher courts.
It is also important that the public be informed of the change in the law. When the Illinois legislature enacted the Conceal and Carry law over the summer, a procedure that will not take place until sometime in 2015 because the State of Illinois is intentionally dragging its feet, the story was front page news on all the media outlets. Yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court probably opened the door to conceal and carry but the media has ignored this. I cannot understand why this is not all over the news. It’s as if there’s a conspiracy of silence.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in UUW cases. If you have a UUW 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.