The Supreme Court of Illinois ruled that felons may apply for restoration of firearms civil rights and describes the discretion granted to the director and courts when making their determination.
Recently, the Supreme Court of Illinois issued its opinion in Evans v. Cook County State’s Attorney, 2021 IL 125513. Evans considered whether Section 10 of the FOID Card Act – which establishes a process for relief from firearms disabilities – automatically and permanently makes this relief unavailable to convicted of felons. The Supreme Court of Illinois determined that Section 10 of the FOID Card Act was intended to be a mechanism for firearm civil rights restoration for some convicted felons.
Evans was convicted of two felonies in 1994. Both were related to the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Evans applied for a FOID card in 2018 but was denied. The Illinois State Police’s (ISP) justification for the denial was based on federal law. The ISP argued that Section 922(g)(1) of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm when that person “has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”
The circuit court agreed with the ISP and rejected Evans’s petition to have his firearm rights restored. The court reasoned that federal law barred Evans from obtaining a FOID, and Evans had also failed to prove that his owning a firearm would not be contrary to the public interest. Evans had submitted various materials to the court in support of his rehabilitated character, including letters of recommendation. However, the circuit court did not find those materials to be persuasive.
Evans appealed and the appellate court reluctantly affirmed on the grounds that, despite its circular reasoning, it was not within the court’s power to rewrite the law. The Illinois Supreme Court allowed Evan’s appeal and ruled that if a convicted felon can establish the requirements of Section 10(c)(1)-(3), he has his civil rights restored and may be granted a FOID. However, the Supreme Court of Illinois went further and held that a petitioner must establish the FOID Act’s Section 10 factors “to the courts or Director’s satisfaction.” The Supreme Court reviewed the circuit court’s justification for the denial and ruled that the circuit court had not abused its discretion in denying Evans’ FOID appeal.
The ruling is a victory for firearms civil rights with the added caveat that applications for restoration be properly tailored and sufficiently detailed to meet the requirements of Section 10. Any appeal of a FOID denial or revocation should be crafted by an experienced expert attorney to ensure that the applicant’s submissions will result in success. Williams & Nickl are experts when it comes to FOID appeals so reach out with questions.