You were in an alley making a deal when the police arrived and charged you with delivering drugs. You thought you could cope with the misdemeanor, but it turns out you were within 500 feet of a church. Because of that, the charges are greater.

Can you fight the stiffer charge? Did that building near the alley even look like a church?

Under Illinois law, the penalty for a drug-related crime can be upgraded if you committed that offense on or 500 feet from any church, synagogue or other building, structure or place used primarily for religious worship. (See 720 ILCS 570/407). A church or synagogue are clearly places of worship within the meaning of the law. But what about other structures where it’s less than obvious?

To determine whether a “church,” is a place of worship, a building need not have the particular physical characteristics of a church. Instead the court looks at whether the structure is primarily used for religious purposes. Thus, a Salvation Army building was deemed a church because people came to its chapel solely for the purpose of attending religious services. (See People v. Sparks). Even where a building is a place of religious worship, it must be one on the date of the offense.

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 your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were you within 500 feet of the alleged place of worship? Was it a place of worship?

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

(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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