Compassionate, Results-Driven Representation

Chicago traffic stops, felony weapons charges have skyrocketed

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Illinois has stricter laws concerning firearms than many other states do. Violations of one that result in a lot of arrests is the state’s Unlawful Use of Weapons (UUW) law.

The law states that anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card “may transport a firearm anywhere in their vehicle or on their person as long as the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container.” Therefore, a loaded gun in the glove compartment or on the passenger seat can get someone charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, which is a felony, even if they weren’t “using” the weapon in question.

A look at UUW charges and traffic stops over the past decade

Here’s some troubling data: The number of UUW charges rose a whopping 700% in Cook County between 2014, when there were 60, and 2023, when there were almost 500. Over that decade, more than 3,600 of these charges arose from traffic stops. Chicago police officers made 86% of those stops.

Further, the number of traffic stops overall in Chicago increased by almost 500% — to over a half million in 2022. Those who have studied the trend say that many of these stops are for “low-level violations that don’t present significant traffic safety dangers and, generally, do not require immediate law enforcement response.” These include things like air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror or a cracked windshield.

What the CPD says

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) states, “Officers only conduct traffic stops when they have probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime, including but not limited to traffic violations, has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed.”

While this disturbing data is important to be aware of, what’s more important to know is under what conditions it’s legal to have a firearm in your vehicle and the possible consequences of violating the law. If you are charged with a weapons-related offense following a traffic stop, it’s critical to determine whether it was a legal stop in the first place. If it wasn’t any evidence gathered may not be admissible. Getting legal support right away can help you protect your rights.