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Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon: Legal Provisions in Illinois

Understanding Charges of Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon

Unlawful possession or use of a weapon by a felon is a serious criminal offense, mapped out within the Illinois Compiled Statutes. The code provides severe consequences for a person previously convicted of a felony found in possession of a weapon.  

If you are facing charges of unlawful weapon use as a previously convicted felon, our Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Hirsch Law Group may be able to help you. We have a robust knowledge of state and local laws, which is crucial to your case. Contact us if you need an experienced criminal attorney to defend and uphold your rights within the criminal justice system.

Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon: Illinois Legal Provisions

Illinois Code in 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1 states that it is unlawful for any felon to knowingly possess on his person, his land, or in his own abode or place of business any weapon prohibited under 720 ILCS 5/24-1 or any firearm or firearm ammunition. This law applies whether the person was convicted of a felony under the laws of Illinois State or any other jurisdiction. The section also applies to whether the felon has been released from prison or caught with a weapon while in a penal institution.

The Illinois Code groups together unlawful “use” and “possession” of a weapon by a felon in 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1. Mere possession is highlighted as a breach of this provision. As such, even without demonstrative use or threat of violence, one can still be charged under this section of the code.

The gravity and attendant consequences of the crime depend on several considerations, such as where the accused was found, what type of weapon was found on them, prior convictions, and so on.


Persons not confined in a penal institution are charged with:

  • A Class 3 felony for a first-time offense (imprisonment is for a term of between 2 and 10 years).

  • A Class 2 felony where the person violating the law is on parole or mandatory supervised release. The punishment is a prison sentence of not less than three years and not more than 14 years.

  • A Class 2 felony where the offender was previously convicted of stalking, aggravated stalking, a forcible felony, a felony violation of the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act, a Class 2 or higher felony related to the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, or a violation of the Cannabis Control Act. Imprisonment is for a term between 3 and 14 years.

  • A Class X felony when the firearm possessed is a machine gun.

Persons confined in a penal institution are charged with:

  • A Class 1 felony for a first-time violation where the weapon possessed or used is not a firearm ammunition or firearm but a prohibited weapon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1.

  • A Class X felony if the offender used a firearm, firearm ammunition, or explosive.

  • A Class X felony with a minimum jail term of 12 years and a maximum of 50 years where the weapon used is a machine gun.

General penalties:

  • A second or subsequent offender who has been previously charged with unlawful use or possession is charged with a Class 2 felony. Imprisonment is between 3 and 14 years. Depending on the specific circumstances, this charge can be aggravated and stepped up.

  • Unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon while wearing or in possession of body armor is a Class X felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than ten years and not more than 40 years.

Finally, each weapon or device found in violation of 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1 will count as a single and separate violation of the law. In other words, the higher the number of weapons used or possessed, the higher the number of charges that can be leveled against the accused and the more consequences they face.

Beyond the immediate legal ramifications, convicted individuals face long-term detriments to their civil liberties. They may experience challenges with employment, housing, and the loss of the right to vote or hold public office. Moreover, a new conviction can reset the clock for when a felon may have their full rights restored, extending the period in which these limitations affect their personal life and freedom.

For those facing charges related to the unlawful use of a weapon, securing legal representation that is well-versed in Illinois law is critical. Attorneys with experience in this area, such as those at Hirsch Law Group, can provide clarity and guidance throughout the legal process.

Defensive Measures and Legal Representation

In cases involving the unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon, we, as legal professionals, prioritize advising our clients on defensive measures compliant with state and federal regulations.

Our defense strategies may involve arguing the following:

  • Lack of Knowledge: This argument pushes the narrative that the defendant was unaware that they were in possession of the weapon. One of the elements of the crime is awareness. So, if the weapon was planted on the defendant without their knowledge or was found in a place where the defendant did not know it was located, such as in a borrowed vehicle or a shared living space, this defense might suffice. The defense attorney in this case must be able to adduce through argument and evidence that the defendant did not knowingly possess the weapon and had no intention to use it.

  • Violation of Constitutional Rights: This is an argument based on technicalities. The focus of this defense strategy is proving that the weapon was found as a result of a procedure that violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, this would be the case if the weapons were found through an illegal search or seizure that violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. This defense could also be argued if the defendant’s Miranda rights (Fifth Amendment rights) were violated during the arrest and interrogation process. If this defense succeeds, the weapons found with the defendant may be deemed inadmissible, ultimately leading to the dismissal of charges.

  • Entrapment: In this defense, the claim is that the defendant was induced by law enforcement to commit the offense. It could be that police officers or informants coerced or persuaded the defendant to possess or use the weapon when they would not have otherwise done so. This defense requires demonstrating that the idea to use the weapon originated with law enforcement and that the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime.

Not all defense strategies are appropriate for every situation. It is our job to review any and all evidence, establish the context of use or possession, and use our knowledge of legislative nuances to our client’s advantage. Our commitment is to protect our clients’ rights while guiding them through the complex legal system. As defense attorneys, we leave no stone unturned in safeguarding the interests of our clients within the bounds of the law.

Contact Us for Aggressive Criminal Defense Today

Facing charges for the unlawful use of a weapon by a felon is a situation fraught with complexity. Each case can involve diverse considerations that add to the difficulty of the situation. The intricacies of the law make navigating your defense a task requiring skill, diligence, and experience.

If you are grappling with a weapons possession charge or any related allegations, know that our doors are open to you. At Hirsch Law Group, we possess the legal acumen needed to dissect the complexities of your situation. Reach out to us for tailored advice and to explore what defenses may exist in your case.