The police are at the door. Your boyfriend was involved in some kind of criminal activity—maybe it was drug dealing or robbery. Somehow the police found a gun, either in your home or in your car. Now both you and your boyfriend are charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

What is the law on gun ownership these days? What can happen to you? What can you do? The answer partly depends on whether your offense took place in the City of Chicago. While Chicago was forced to throw out its 28-year old handgun ban after a 2010 Supreme Court ruling made it unenforceable, the City instituted a new law. This new law has been challenged, but for now remains on the books.

In Illinois, you may be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, if you carry in your car or concealed on your person a taser, stun gun, pistol, revolver or other firearm unless you are on your own property. You may transport your guns if they are broken down in a non functioning state, are not immediately accessible or are unloaded and enclosed in a case. (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4).) You also may not possess a silencer or sawed off shotgun, which is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail and up to $25,000 fine. Possessing a machine gun is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. Penalties are even more severe if you had your gun in a bar or liquor store, a government building or a school.

In Chicago, each registered gun owner may have one gun which is assembled and operable in their home, but you may not take it outside your home such as on your porch or in your back yard or garage. Each offense carries a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and a 20 to 90 day jail term. Each day of possession is a separate offense. Subsequent offenses carry fines of $5,000 to $10,000 and 30 days to 6 months in jail. All firearms must be registered.

If you are charged with having an illegal gun, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your case. Do not discuss your case with anyone else either in person, by telephone or by electronic means. Any statements made to police or a third party can be used against you. “I told my boyfriend not to leave that thing lying around our living room," may seem reasonable to you but may be interpreted as an admission of guilt by the State.

An experienced attorney can evaluate the evidence in your case to help prepare your defense. As in most criminal cases, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the state prove that you possessed the gun? Did you have permission to have the gun in someone else’s home where it was found? Do you work in security and have a legitimate reason to carry the gun?

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)