An Illinois judge has ruled that Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card law is unconstitutional.
A county judge in Illinois has ruled that Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card law is unconstitutional. The recent decision came after litigation surrounding a 2017 arrest of Vivian Brown in White County, Illinois. In May 2017, Vivian Brown was arrested and charged with violating the FOID Act. Specifically, she was charged with knowingly possessing a firearm “without having in her possession a Firearm Owner’s identification card,” after officers responded to her estranged husband’s phone call regarding her shooting a gun inside her rural home. The officers investigated and found a .22-caliber single-shot, bolt-action rifle in her bedroom, but no evidence that it had been fired. Vivian Brown denied firing the rifle. Ms. Brown claimed that she kept the rifle in her home for self-defense; that she was over 21; and although she did not possess a FOID card, she was a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, no history of mental illness, or any other disqualifying condition and could have been eligible to obtain a FOID card had she applied for one.
First enacted in 1968, the State’s Firearm Owner Identification Act requires Illinois residents to apply for the card with the Illinois State Police in order to legally own a firearm. To acquire a FOID card, an applicant must submit a form to the Illinois State Police attesting that he or she is not subject to certain disqualifying conditions, such as being under the age of 21, a felon, or a person who has been adjudicated with a mental disability. The applicant must also submit a personal photograph, and sign a release allowing the State Police to perform a background check to verify the information contained in the application. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statute, the punishment can range from a misdemeanor to different degrees of felonies. An initial violation of the statute is a Class A misdemeanor when the person does not currently possess a valid FOID card but is otherwise eligible for one. The offense can carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $2500 fine.
In a recent ruling, White County, IL Judge T. Scott Webb dismissed the criminal charge against Vivian Brown, finding that, as applied to the facts of the case, requiring a FOID card was unconstitutional under the second amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. In his ruling, Judge Webb stated, “A citizen in the State of Illinois is not born with a Second Amendment right. Nor does that right insure when a citizen turns 18 or 21 years of age. It is a façade. They only gain that right if they pay a $10 fee, complete the proper application, and submit a photograph. If the right to bear arms and self-defense is truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights, especially within the confines and privacy of their own homes. Accordingly, if a person does something themselves from being able to exercise that right, like being convicted of a felony or demonstrating mental illness, then and only then may the right be stripped from them.”
The Illinois Attorney General has decided to appeal White County Judge T. Scott Webb’s ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court. Generally, the Illinois Supreme Court has discretion in the appeals it accepts. But, according to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 603, it must accept appeals in cases where a state or federal law is found unconstitutional. Be sure to stay tuned to the Coffman Law blog, as we will continue updating our readers on the latest and most important legal news.
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