Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Armed Habitual Criminal

Article 24 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 covers more serious crimes. One such offense is Armed Habitual Criminal offense. The legislation concerning this crime was passed relatively recently. The objective was to make a distinction between habitual offenders from first time offenders.

Repeat offenders will be given a higher punishment if they have received previous convictions by the courts.

Illinois Statute

The exact legislation relating to Armed Habitual Criminal is defined by statute 720 ILCS 5/24 – 1.7.

A person is considered to have committed the offense of Armed Habitual Criminal if he or she receives, sells, possesses or transfers any firearm after having been convicted 2 time or more of the following offenses in the past.

  1. Forcible felony as defined by the law.
  2. Unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. These include aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated use of a weapon, vehicular hijacking, aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated battery of a child, intimidation, aggravated intimidation, gunrunning, home invasion or aggravated battery with a firearm.
  3. A violation of the Illinois controlled substances act or the Cannabis Control Act that is punishable as a Class 3 felony.
Class X Felony

Class X Felony is one of the most serious felony offenses in the books of Illinois. If the court finds the defendant guilty of a Class X felony, they cannot sentence the defendant to probation. The court must sentence the convict to a minimum sentence of 6 years in the Department of Corrections.

In order to try the defendant in a class X felony, the prosecution must be able to satisfy the courts that the defendant has previously been convicted of any of forcible felony, possession of controlled substances or unlawful use of a weapon.


Conviction for the armed habitual criminal offense falls under class X felony which carries a high sentence. The mandatory sentence is 6 – 30 years in prison with additional fines and penalties.

The punishment mainly depends on the evidence collected by the prosecution and the severity of the damage done by the defendant. The previous convictions may not be taken into consideration by the court unless the prosecution asks for it but it can affect the court’s decision.

First and Second Time Offenders

First time offenders in forcible felony, unlawful use of weapon or possession of controlled substances are tried under Class 3 or Class 4 felonies.

Class 4 felonies are the least serious and carry a minimum term of one year. Class 3 felonies carry a prison sentence of two to five years as well as the possibility of $25,000 in fines.

An Example of a Typical Armed Habitual Criminal Case

The major concern about armed habitual criminal proceeding is that a person may not have even committed a crime, yet they can still get tried for armed habitual criminal case.

Consider the following example. Let us suppose that a person, Mr. A gets pulled over for a minor traffic stop. While checking over the person’s license, the police discover a firearm in his possession. The police perform a criminal check and discover the Mr. A has a criminal record.

While possession of firearms in itself is not a crime, previous convictions could lead the State Attorney to charge the person with an armed habitual criminal offense. This can happen despite the fact that the person was not even trying to break any law.

A Recent Case

A defendant was recently convicted by the Illinois appellate courts as an armed habitual criminal. He was sentenced for eight years in prison.

The man was appealing to a conviction by the lower courts. He had argued that he had not been proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt for the offense of armed habitual criminal by the lower court.

The man had prior convictions for attempted robbery and possession of illegal substances. He had been found with a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his car which he confessed to have bought two days ago. The police officers had also found marijuana and liquor in his car, which were confiscated as evidence.

The prosecution had entered evidence of prior convictions of attempted robbery and possession of illegal drugs.

In his appeal, the defendant had argued that his previous convictions for attempted robbery had not been proven to be forcible felonies and did not satisfy the conditions for him to be tried under class X felony.

The appellate court dismissed the appeal, noting that the defendant, in being convicted of armed robbery, had shown a willingness and intent to use force while armed.

Possible Defenses for Armed Habitual Criminal under Class X Felony

If the prosecution charged the defendant with a class X felony, negotiations with the prosecution are quite difficult. The history of previous convictions really limits the options at the disposal of the defense team.

One possible strategy is to push the matter to trial. A good and experienced defense lawyer can create a strong case and present counter evidence that puts the prosecution’s case into doubt. A competent lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to lower their case from Class X felony to Class 1 felony before the beginning of the trial.

Class 1 felony still carries a sentence of 4 – 15 years but it is still better than class X felony. One reason to get the case tried as a lower tier felony is because Class X felonies typically get the most experienced and competent prosecution teams assigned by the State.

The prosecution may be unwilling to negotiate if they believe that they have a strong case with enough evidence. Much of the risk in a Class X felony is upon the defendant and it is a weak position to bargain from.