Courthouse Laws and Regulations in Chicago

sebastian-pichler-25154-copy-300x200Recently, a Chicago judge was charged with a Class B misdemeanor offense. Cook County Judge Joseph Claps was walking in the courthouse lobby when a gun fell out of his jacket pocket. The judge proceeded to pick up the gun and place it in his pants. Security cameras caught the incident on tape and the Sheriff’s office took a report.

Although Judge Claps’ weapon was registered, he was carrying the gun in a restricted area. Even though he has a concealed carry license, he is not permitted to have the weapon in the courthouse. He has since been placed on non-judicial duties pending investigation and trial. This means that Judge Claps will be confined to routine tasks, such as legal research and marriage ceremonies.

This incident has sparked a lot of questions regarding the security and regulations that take place in our courthouses. While some may blame the security guards for letting the gun pass through the scanners, this case is not that simple. There are several complex regulations that impact courthouse security. If you will be entering a courthouse in the near future, it is important to be up to date on these procedures.

Standard Rules and Regulations

State courts pose a complex problem for the security tasked with protecting them. On the one hand, they must remain accessible to the public. On the other hand, they need to be protected from both internal and external threats. While some security procedures may differ from court to court, there are several things you will find at all of them.

Federal law bans firearms in most federal buildings. There are several courthouse exceptions, though. According to U.S. Code 930, judges can allow firearms at their discretion. This code is what makes the case against Judge Claps complicated. There is a question about whether he had the right to carry the firearm or not. For civilians entering a courthouse, you most likely will not be allowed a weapon. Be prepared to leave any firearm, knife, or sharp object at home.

To ensure compliance with this rule, there are usually metal detectors and X-ray scanners at the entrances to these buildings. Armed guards will escort you out or ask you to leave if you have any unwarranted objects on your person or in your belongings.

Possible Exceptions

There are a variety of firearm bans that can apply to a state courthouse. Several of these may provide exceptions for those with registered weapons and a carry license.

  • Courthouse bans cover the entire courthouse and adjacent buildings.
  • Court use area bans apply to buildings that have multiple purposes. In these courthouses, weapons may only be banned in areas that are used by the court. However, this might not be the case in all areas. It is important to check with your local courthouse about their specific regulations.
  • A courtroom ban simply prohibits the carrying of a firearm within the courtroom. If this ban is in effect, you potentially could be able to carry a firearm in adjacent hallways and rooms.
  • The most lenient ban is a conditional location ban. This type of regulation states that a firearm ban can only be enforced if the building has metal detectors or other screening procedures. Since this is standard in most courthouses, it is a relative non-issue. However, this procedure may apply to smaller, more remote buildings.

Your Rights

As a civilian with a registered weapon and a carry permit, it is important to know your rights. Research your specific courthouse to find out where and if you can carry a weapon.

If you are facing any form of a firearm charge, call us for a free consultation at 312-560-7100. The second amendment is an important one that needs protection. Visit our website for more information. David Freidberg, Attorney at Law, is ready to fight for you.

(image courtesy of Sebastian Pichler)