This Week in Ridiculous Criminal Laws IV – Fortification of a Building

So, we’re back. Please note that it’s been awhile, but I promise, TWIRCL is back with a vengeance!

Again, with this series I am trying to highlight the silliness, redundancy or unnecessary use of punitive means for non-dangerous behavior…hence, its ridiculousness.

This week in ridiculous criminals laws, 720 ILCS 5/19-5 “Criminal Fortification of a Building or Residence.”

This ridiculous law, found in the section on burglary and burglary tools, criminalizes the act of having a lair. Or a Batcave. Or a Fortress of Solitude.

Not really. This law specifically makes it illegal to put a “steel door, wooden planking, crossbars, alarm system, dogs or similar means” in the way of officers trying to bust your drug house. Now, this law does make it specific that it only counts if you are using that building or residence for “the purpose of manufacture, storage, deliver or trafficking of cannabis or a controlled substance.” So, drug houses and pot farms need only apply.

Here’s why it’s ridiculous. Say I’m a jewel thief. Or a hacker. Or I run a brothel. Then presumably my “fortifications” which include Rover, the ADT alarm system from the condo association, and the broom handle stuck in the sliding door are all legal! In fact, the steel door reinforcement, the Master Lock Security Bar, the killer Goldendoodle you got from the breeder and the motion sensor alarms you purchased are just fine and dandy.

This law is ridiculous. This law is a Class 3 felony which carries a 2-5 year sentence for violating (and is probationable). It is conceivable that you could be busted for possession with intent to sell cannabis, between 10 and 30 grams, which would be a Class 4 felony, and have the alarm system on your door would be a larger crime.

This law has been attacked for vagueness in People v. Rasmussen 233 Ill. App. 3d 352, but to no avail. It seems that there is some use for this, although presumably this is just another of those “tack-on” crimes that prosecutors love so much.

I had noticed in the past that on warrant entry forms used by the police that they note fortifications and the use of dogs (they even have little boxes to check off for “booby trap” and “attack dogs”). I had no idea what the purpose of that was until I discovered this ridiculous law. I have yet to see a client charged with it, but I suppose I should only give it time.

After all, if it’s on the books, why not use all the laws available, even the ridiculous ones!

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