People v. Ligon, 2016 IL 118023 (February). Episode 162 (Duration 6:45)
Many objects can qualify as dangerous weapons for purposes of aggravated vehicular hijacking, but not as to armed violence.
Proportionate Penalties Challenge
Defendant brought a proportionate penalties (see Illinois Constitution. Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §11 ) challenge of his aggravated vehicular hijacking with a dangerous weapon, other than a firearm conviction.
It was his third class X so he received a life sentence. He used a bb gun to threaten a woman and took her car.
The state alleged the bb gun was used as a bludgeon, a dangerous weapon. He argued his AVH/DW conviction was the same as a conviction for armed violence predicated on vehicular hijacking with a dangerous weapon.
This is only a class 1.
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However, the crimes are not identical. The armed violence defines a dangerous weapon as any Category III weapon, which are
“a bludgeon, blackjack, slungshot, sandbag, sandclub, metal knuckles, billy, or other dangerous weapon of like character.”
The Illinois Supreme Court said that many objects, including the BB gun defendant possessed in this case, satisfy the “dangerous weapon” element of AVH/DW, but not the “Category III weapon” element of armed violence with a category III dangerous weapon.
Common Law v. Statute
“Dangerous weapon” is not defined in either the AVH/DW statute or the armed robbery statute, but is derived from common law. Indeed, a review of the case law shows that the common law definition of a dangerous weapon is in fact rooted in this court’s discussion of what constitutes a deadly weapon.
The case law has said that objects that are not per se dangerous, but objects that are used or may be used in a dangerous manner will also be considered a dangerous weapon under AVH/DW.
In contrast, the dangerous weapons categories in the armed violence statute are defined by the statute and therefore limited to the weapons identified by the statute. See 720 ILCS 5/33A1(c).
Armed Violence v. Vehicular Hijacking
Since, a bb gun is not mentioned in the armed violence definition it cannot be a dangerous weapon under the armed violence statute.
However, defendant’s BB gun does qualify as a dangerous weapon other than a firearm under the common law definition applicable to statutory offenses such as aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery.
Defendant’s life sentence is back on the table.