Updated: 01-07-16
Firearm Laws
Search & Seizure

A person commits the offense of aggravated UUW in Illinois (a felony) by knowingly carrying a firearm in a vehicle that is uncased, loaded and immediately accessible, unless the person is carrying the firearm on his or her land, abode, or fixed place of business (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1)(3)(A). However, an exemption to the application of this section of the statute is found in 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6 (c) (iii), which states that it does not apply to transportation or possession of weapons that are “unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, or other container . . . ” [emphasis added].

People v. Williams,   858 N.E. 2nd 606.  Illinois Appellate Court, Ist District.  

Notice:This decision is not reported in the permanent law reports, and until released it is subject to being revised or withdrawn.

Facts:   A 9 millimeter  holstered  pistol was found, with one round in the chamber, inside a leather zippered compartment located to the right of the back passenger seat of defendant’s vehicle pursuant to an inventory search after defendant was arrested for driving without a valid license.   The initial stop was predicated upon defendant driving his vehicle into the opposite lane of traffic.
    Defendant was found guilty in the lower court of aggravated unlawful use of a  weapon ( a felony).

NOTE:A search of this site’s archives will reveal this author’s commentaries on People v. Smyth, 352 Ill. 3d 10566, 817 N.E. 2d 1100 (2004) and People v. Cameron,  336 Ill. App. 3d 548, 784 N.E.. 2d 438 (2003), both of which were relied upon by the Ist District Appellate Court in its decision in this case.

Appellate Decision:      Defendant argued that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in that it failed to show the gun was "uncased" and, therefore, the lower Court should have found him guilty of the lesser charge of unlawful use of a weapon (a class-A misdemeanor)

The Court noted that to the extent it was asked to interpret the statutory term "uncased," its review was de novo, and in so reviewing that issue it relied heavily on  Smyth ( a 1st District case) and Cameron (a 4th District case). The decision in this case makes it obvious that the first and  fourth  appellate districts now hold fast to the position that various parts of a motor vehicle in which a firearm may be stored will not be considered as satisfying the statutory phrase" . .  .case,  firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container." See 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(c) (iii), in pertinent part, stating that the aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (UUW) portion of the statute does not apply to the transportation or possession of  weapons that “are unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container."

This Court points out that in Smyth, a gun found under the driver’s seat in a holster, with the butt exposed, was deemed “uncased.”  The Smyth court held that "[g]iven the plain meaning of the term in light of the relevant provisions of the statute, the term ‘case’ refers to an item that completely encloses the weapon in a firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container." [Emphasis added.]

Relying more upon Smyth, this Court goes on to note that "[e]ven assuming the term    'uncased' was ambiguous, the legislative history of Public Act  91-690 [Criminal Code of 1961] also established that the legislature intended for the gun to be enclosed in a container specifically designed for housing a gun, and that leaves no part of the gun exposed;" the Smyth court having cited 91st Ill. Gen. Assem., House proceedings, April 10, 2000 at 50-51 (statements of  Representative Cross). Defendant’s argument that the citing of legislative history was obiter dictum (a  " by the way" statement made by  the Court) was rejected, this Court stating that the legislative history comments went to the main issue of the matter as it pertained to defining the word "case."

The Cameron case was viewed by the Court because, unlike the holster scenario in Smyth, in this case the gun was found in a zippered compartment adjacent to a back seat in the vehicle. The Court here said: “Contrary to defendant’s argument, it would be illogical for the legislature to list three specific portable containers only to intend for the fourth to be of a much broader scope.  Because it is fundamentally different from a case, firearm carrying box, or shipping box, the zippered compartment, like a glove compartment, cannot be considered an 'other container.'"  In Cameron, the Judge writing for the majority, and referring to the glove compartment not satisfying the exempt provisions,  made the caustic observation: "I haven’t seen too many vehicles  someone could pick up and carry around."

The Appeals Court affirmed the lower court decision, addressing several other issues, including selection of a fair and impartial jury, effective assistance of counsel, and the trial court’s duty to inform the jury of defendant’s constitutional rights upon trial of the case.

NOTE:  For a different view of this issue see at Archives: People v. Dieppa, 357 Ill. App. 3d 847, where the 2d District Appellate Court, relying on a Supreme Court decision, held that a glove compartment, whether locked or unlocked, is a “container.”

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