Updated: 01-07-16
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Hiland v. Trent, 868 N.E. 2d 396, Third District Appellate Court (5/16/07). The Appellate Court, Lytton, J., held that the Director of the Illinois Department of State Police abused his discretion in denying a FOID card application.

Facts: Larry Hiland had been convicted of several federal crimes, including multiple counts of mail fraud in 1988. At the time of his conviction, Hiland possessed a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, but was required to turn it in upon request by the Illinois State Police.
Several years after his conviction Hiland requested a hearing with the Director of the Illinois State Police to seek re-issuance of his FOID card pursuant to the FOID ACT, 430 ILCS 65/10(c) At the hearing, Hiland established that the mail fraud charges were the result of his participation as president of a pharmaceutical company that failed to obtain FDA approval when adding a new substance to an existing drug. Both the manufacturer of the drug and the executive v.p of the company had urged him to add the substance to the product line without a need to obtain FDA approval. Hiland’s good character was established at the hearing, including statements by the pastor of his church, and a letter from his former probation officer indicating his non-violent past and “that he had made a very positive adjustment to supervision and is not perceived as being a threat to himself or the community.”
Administrative Law Judge rulings:
The hearing officer issued a ruling recommending that Hiland be issued a FOID card, and the deputy director agreed and granted a FOID card with a cautionary comment that Hiland also seek relief from any disability that may have been imposed by the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. Sec. 921 et. seq. (1988). Hiland never sought relief from federal authorities.
When the FOID card renewal date came up in 1997, the card was renewed upon Hiland’s application. However, when he applied again for renewal in 2002, the application was denied “because of his 1988 convictions.” Another hearing was requested pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act, and all the prior evidence from the prior hearing, including the character reference letters, were allowed to be introduced at the 2003 hearing. Hiland stated his need for a FOID card so that he could hunt on his own property.
At this second administrative law hearing the ALJ concluded “that Hiland had not committed a forcible felony within 20 years and that his criminal history and reputation were such that he was not likely to act in a dangerous manner. [However] . . .granting Hiland a FOID card ‘would be contrary to the public interest as Section 8(n) of the FOID Card Act prohibits the issuance of a FOID card to an individual who is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law.’” The Director, Larry G. Trent, denied the application based on the ALJ’s findings and recommendations.
Circuit Court and Apellate Decisions:
Upon appeal to the Circuit Court of Hancock County the Court “reversed the denial, holding that the Director [Trent] abused his discretion by denying Hiland’s FOID card application.” Defendants then appealed, arguing that “the Director properly denied Hiland a FOID card because [his] federal criminal convictions prevented him from possessing firearm under federal law.”
The Third District Appellate Court noted that proper method of review of the Director’s decision to deny issuance of a FOID card is whether there has been an“abuse of discretion.” See Rawlings v. Ill. Department of Law Enforcement, 73 Ill. App. 3d 267 (1979). “An abuse of discretion will be found where the decision is ‘fanciful, arbitrary or unreasonable to the degree that no reasonable person would agree with it.’” Also, if the decision is based on a misinterpretation of the applicable law, it is an abuse of discretion, as well. See Mid-America Television Co. v. Peoria Housing Authority, 93 Ill. App. 3d 314 (1981)
While Section 8 of the FOID Act notes the authority in the Department to deny an application if, among other things, it finds that the applicant is prohibited from acquiring or possessing a firearm by state or federal law, the provisions of Section 10 allows an applicant who has been denied a FOID card under Section 8 to apply to the Director for relief, and the Director may grant a FOID card if the applicant establishes:
   a.) he has not been convicted of a forcible felony within 20 years;
   b.) the circumstances surrounding his criminal conviction, criminal history, and reputation are
        such that he will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety, and
   c.) granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest. 430 ILCS 65/10 (c).
“By not exercising the discretion granted him in Section 10 (c), the Director ignored the overwhelming evidence establishing that Hiland has been a law-abiding citizen and productive member of his community since his convictions. . . .Judgment of the Circuit Court of Hancock County is affirmed.”

NOTE: Concurring in the decision, Justices Carter and Holdrige noted that while the provisions of Section 922(g)(1) of the Federal Gun Act of 1968 prohibit a convicted felon to possess a firearm, Section 925(c) nevertheless allows an individual so disqualified from possessing a firearm to apply to the Secretary of the Treasury for Relief. However, since federal funding had been suspended regarding review requests under Section 925(c),” an individual disqualified from ownership under Section 922(g)(1) of the federal Gun Control Act has no avenue for relief from that disqualification.”

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