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How Weapons Can Lead to an Armed Violence Charge in IllinoisMany criminal charges you can face in Illinois become more serious if you are accused of possessing or using a weapon. Robbery is a Class 2 felony, but armed robbery is a Class X felony. Assault is a Class C misdemeanor, but assault with a deadly weapon can be a Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony, depending on the identity of the victim. Illinois considers the presence of a deadly weapon during a crime to be an aggravating offense because of the potential for death or serious injury. With this in mind, Illinois created a criminal charge called armed violence in 2012.

What Is Armed Violence?

Armed violence is the possession of a deadly weapon or discharge of a firearm while committing a felony that is not predicated on using the weapon. For instance, possessing a gun while being arrested for felony drug possession is armed violence, but attempted murder with a gun is a different offense. There are three categories of weapons under the armed violence law:

  • Category I includes firearms that are small enough to be concealed, semiautomatic weapons, and machine guns.
  • Category II includes all other firearms and sharp weapons meant for cutting or stabbing.
  • Category III includes weapons meant for striking, such as a bludgeon or metal knuckles.

Most armed violence charges are Class X felonies with different prison sentencing requirements. Possession of a Category II weapon has a minimum of 10 years in prison, and possession of a Category I weapon has a minimum of 15 years. Discharge of a Category I or II firearm results in a minimum of 20 years in prison. Harming someone by discharging a Category I or II firearm results in 25 to 40 years in prison.

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