After a car accident, you and the other driver started argueing. You grabbed your cell phone, but the other driver told police you had a gun. You did have a gun in your glove compartment, but you never removed it. Now you are charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

Is the other driver’s testimony enough to convict you? An Illinois court says not necessarily.

In People v. McLaurin, an officer testified that she saw the defendant, a convicted felon, carrying what appeared to be a silver handgun when leaving an apartment building. The officer could not describe the gun or say whether it was a revolver or semi-automatic. A gun was later found under a nearby vehicle.

The court held that where the sole basis of an offense is possession of a firearm, possession of that gun cannot be inferred from circumstantial evidence. Rather, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed a firearm as defined under Illinois law. The state failed to prove that the officer had in fact seen a firearm, and thus defendant’s conviction was overturned.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s evidence: Can the witness see well? How far away was the supposed weapon? Can the witness describe what they saw? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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