Liquor Shipping and Illinois’ Class 4 folly

Chicago, the greatest of American big cities, makes the news these days based on rampant crime. Unfortunately, smash and grab crimes plague the beautiful Magnificent Mile and high-end luxury stores like Louis Vuitton.

Cook County States Attorney, Kim Foxx will not prosecute a felony retail theft unless the value of the stolen items exceeds a $1,000. Hence, going in and brazenly stealing $999 of luxury brands is not considered a felony in Chicago. Many wonder how the leniency of these laws makes sense.

However, the public should not fear, as not all laws in Illinois are this unstrict.

Under the Illinois Liquor Control Act,  “Any person who manufactures, imports for distribution or use, transports from outside this State into this State, or distributes or sells 108 liters (28.53 gallons) or more of wine, 45 liters (11.88 gallons) or more of distilled spirits, or 118 liters (31.17 gallons) or more of beer at any place within the State without having first obtained a valid license to do so under the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony for each offense.” 235 ILCS 5/10-1(a)

Yes, there is the possibility of bringing wine or any other type of liquor into Illinois could make one a felon. Essentially, some lawmakers in Illinois decided that going after people or businesses bringing wine into the state is more serious of a crime than the smash and grab burglaries happening too often in Chicago these days.

How a felon is determined these days might scare you at bit, but also, let’s look at some consequences this law did not anticipate.

For example, if an Illinois consumer purchased liquor from an out-of-state entity, and if the consumer agreed to take legal title outside the state and have the purchased product stored outside the state, and then sometime after had the product shipped to itself in Illinois, is the business that sold the product guilty under law? We assume for argument’s sake that the amount shipped exceeded the felony amounts under the law. The answer is this business might be subject to this law and its felony provisions.

The more interesting question, is the Illinois resident guilty of aiding and abetting a felony by receiving what Illinois may deem an illegal shipment of liquor? The answer may reside anywhere from yes to uncertain.

Now I admit I am not a criminal law expert and I don’t know how the full degree of aiding and abetting charges apply to Class 4 felonies, but is there a possibly that aiding and abetting can exist in this situation? Also, if you aid and abet a Class 4 felony, are you responsible for the class 4 felony?

As I am not a criminal law expert, I don’t know the answers straight on, but these are questions worth raising!

Common Class 4 Felonies in Illinois

So, what exactly is a Class 4 felony and what crimes are associated with it?

Although a Class 4 Felony is the lowest level felony in Illinois, the term of imprisonment for a Class 4 felony is a minimum of 1 year in prison and not more than three years. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-45(a). Yes, transporting that liquor into the state could make your life difficult!

To provide some background on what constitutes a typical Class 4 felony in Illinois, I can provide some common Class 4 felony charges. Mob Action, Obstructing Justice, Reckless Discharge of a Firearm, Stalking, Patronizing a Prostitute, Criminal Sexual Abuse under 720 ILCS 5/11-1.50, and Filing a false police report. [1]

In essence, transporting liquor, fits into the same criminal classification as someone committing criminal sex abuse or recklessly discharging a gun. The comparison is scary and brings to light the ridiculous severity of these laws.

The Irony of it all

The irony of these Class 4 felony liquor importation laws is the state’s ability to maintain jurisdiction over an out-of-state entity is debatable. However, the state’s ability to impose jurisdiction over its own citizens is not debatable! If liquor is shipped to the Illinois resident, is that resident guilty of aiding and abetting a Class 4 felon? There is a potential case for this answer being yes.

Sadly, under the legal regime in Cook County, a violent smash and grab burglary under a $1,000 does not result in a Class 4 Felony, while under Illinois law an individual shipping liquor to itself could become subject to a Class 4 felony.

But this begs a greater question, is Illinois ready to charge its own citizens with aiding and abetting a crime, and is it ready to put them in a violent Illinois prison for violating 235 ILCS 5/10-1(a).

Illinois lawmakers whether they thought about it or not, are setting up their constituents to be considered criminals for ordering alcohol online.

The whole potential scenario makes you shake your head and realize the depth of Illinois’ liquor shipping folly!