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Illinois Personal Injury & Criminal Defense / Blog / Weapons / What Does It Mean To Be An “Armed Habitual Criminal” In Illinois?

What Does It Mean To Be An “Armed Habitual Criminal” In Illinois?


A weapons or firearms charge in Illinois can bring down the full force of the law if you have a prior criminal record. State law defines an “armed habitual criminal” as someone who possesses or receives a firearm after being convicted of two or more forcible felonies, drug crimes, and certain other offenses specified in the statute. A person convicted of possessing a weapon as an armed habitual criminal faces a Class X felony charge, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of between 6 and 30 years, with no option for probation in lieu of jail time.

Defendant Receives 8-Year Sentence After Police Find Gun Underneath Pillow

It is critical to emphasize that the armed habitual criminal (AHC) statute only requires two things for conviction: (1) The defendant had at least two prior qualifying convictions; and (2) they were in possession of a firearm following those convictions. Possession of a firearm, in turn, can be either actual or constructive. The latter means that the prosecution does not have to prove you were actually holding a gun when the police arrested you, only that you had “some form of control” over the weapon.

A recent decision from the Illinois First District Appellate Court, People v. Neal, provides a helpful illustration. In this case, a police officer testified that he responded to a call about a “man with a firearm” at a local residence. When the officer entered the house, he found two women seated at a table. The officer spoke to the women and proceeded to a closed bedroom door. The officer signaled his presence. There was no response, the officer said, but he heard what appeared to be the “racking” of a firearm.

The officer waited for backup and then entered the bedroom. The officer saw a man–the defendant in this case–and several children in the room. The defendant’s head was on a pillow with his hands beneath his head and underneath the pillow. After placing the defendant under arrest, officers saw a pillow fall off of the bed, revealing a hooded sweatshirt. The officer picked up the sweatshirt and found a loaded firearm.

The State’s Attorney subsequently charged the defendant under the AHC statute. It was undisputed at trial that the defendant had two prior qualifying convictions from 2003 and 2004, respectively. The only issue at trial was whether the defendant was in possession of a firearm. One of the women that the officer spoke to was an occupant of the house. She testified that the defendant and her were friends and that he had come to the house that morning and threatened her with a firearm. The defendant argued there was no proof that the gun the police found belonged to him. After all, it was the woman’s house and bedroom–and she was allegedly jealous of the defendant due to his relationship with another woman, giving her an incentive to lie.

The jury convicted the defendant and the judge sentenced him to eight years in prison. On appeal, the First District affirmed the conviction and sentence. The court noted that the testimony of the woman and the police officer were sufficient to establish the defendant’s constructive possession of a firearm.

Contact Illinois Weapons Crimes Defense Lawyer Baku N. Patel Today

A weapons charge is not something you can simply talk your way out of or hope will go away on its own. You need to work with an experienced Champaign weapon crimes lawyer who can advise you of your rights and zealously defend you in court. Contact Patel Law, PC, today to schedule a case evaluation.



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