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People v. Cameron

February 07, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
BREON P. CAMERON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 01CM131 Honorable Jeffrey B. Ford, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

A jury convicted defendant, Breon P. Cameron, of unlawful use of weapons, a Class A misdemeanor (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4), (b) (West 2000)), for transporting an unloaded semiautomatic pistol in the glove compartment of his vehicle. Defendant appeals, contending his conviction should be reversed because (1) the trial court erred by refusing his tendered jury instruction regarding the statutory exemption for unloaded weapons enclosed "in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container" (container exemption) (720 ILCS 5/ 24-1(a)(4)(iii) (West 2000)) and (2) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a jury instruction regarding the statutory exemption for weapons "broken down" in a nonfunctioning state (broken-down exemption) (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4)(i) (West 2000)). We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The following evidence was presented at defendant's May 2001 jury trial. In January 2001, Urbana police officer Shawn Cook conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by defendant. Cook arrested defendant after learning he had a suspended driver's license. Cook searched defendant's car and found in the driver's door accessory compartment an ammunition magazine with six live rounds in it. Cook also recovered an unloaded .32-caliber semiautomatic pistol in the glove compartment. Cook testified the glove compartment was unlocked and within reach from the driver's seat. Defendant testified he unlocked the glove compartment after the traffic stop using a key from the ashtray to get his driver's license from his wallet. Defendant had a valid firearm owner's identification card.

Defense counsel tendered the following jury instruction:

"A person may lawfully transport a firearm in a vehicle if the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container by a person who has been issued a currently valid [f]irearm [o]wner's [i]dentification [c]ard. The defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that at the time of the offense charged the firearm was unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container by a person who has been issued a currently valid [f]irearm [o]wner's [i]dentification [c]ard." See Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 18.01A (4th ed. 2000). The trial court refused this instruction, reasoning as follows:

"[W]hen they say a case, that's something that we could pick up and carry it around. A carrying box assumes that is something you pick up and carry it around. A shipping box is something that you pick up and carry around. When they say, or other container, they then mean some sort of container that could be picked up and carried around. If it is in a glovebox in *** a vehicle, *** I haven't seen too many vehicles someone could pick up and carry around. You cannot take the glovebox out. That's part of the car. It's not removable. *** [I]f they meant areas built into vehicles, the legislature would have put that in there. *** [W]hen you read this section, *** all of these are types of cases that can be picked up and carried around. *** So there is no evidence that *** the weapon was in that type of container or case."

The jury found defendant guilty of unlawful use of weapons. In June 2001, defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial. The trial court denied defendant's motion and sentenced him to 12 months' conditional discharge. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Applicability of Container Exemption

Defendant was convicted of the offense of unlawful use of weapons under section 24-1(a)(4) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4) (West 2000)), which applies when a person knowingly:

"[c]arries or possesses in any vehicle or concealed on or about his person except when on his land or in his own abode or fixed place of business any pistol, revolver, stun gun[,] or taser or other firearm, except that this subsection (a)(4) does not apply to or affect transportation of weapons that meet one of the following conditions:

(i) are broken down in a non-functioning state; or

(ii) are not immediately ...


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