Theft in the state of Illinois is a broad legal term that encompasses a wide range of subcategories, including larceny, burglary, embezzlement, identity theft, extortion, grand theft, fraud, petit theft, shoplifting, and carjacking.
In other words, there are all kinds of different ways that you can be charged – some of which you probably never really thought of as theft.
Illinois state laws describe theft as when a person knowingly:
- Takes unauthorized control over another person's money or property
- Takes control over another person's money or property by means of deception or threat
- Obtains stolen property, knowingly or with a reasonable belief that the property in question was stolen
The penalties for theft crimes can vary greatly depending on the value of the stolen item(s), the particular type of theft crime, and other related circumstances. Even the most minor charge for theft, though, carries with it the possibility of thousands in fines and prison time.
If you've been charged with theft in Illinois, it's important that you fully understand how theft crimes are charged so that you can craft the strongest defense possible.
Theft Classifications and Penalties
The unique circumstances of any theft case will help dictate how the case is prosecuted, and under what charges. In our state, there are seven different classes of theft, from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class X felony. Penalties for Illinois theft and larceny charges vary by class, but all are serious:
Class A Misdemeanor: To be considered a Class A misdemeanor, the theft of money or property must be $500 or less. For retail theft, the value must be $300 or less.
This charge includes a fine of up to $2,500 for each charge, as well as up to one year in prison. The offender may also be responsible for restitution for lost finances due to the crime.
If the offender has a previous theft conviction, the charge is increased to a Class 4 felony.
Class 4 Felony: Theft of money or property up to $500 taken from a school or place of worship is considered a Class 4 felony.
This charge includes a fine of up to $25,000, financial restitution, and a possible prison sentence of 1 to 3 years.
Class 3 Felony: Stolen money or property with a value between $500 and $10,000 is a Class 3 felony. Additionally, retail theft over $300, and any property taken from the person of another is automatically charged as a Class 3 felony.
This charge includes a fine of up to $25,000, financial restitution, and a possible prison sentence of 2 to 5 years.
Class 2 Felony: If money or property valued between $10,000 and $100,000 is considered a Class 2 felony. This also applies if between $500 and $10,000 is stolen from a school or place of worship, or if property worth less than $500 is taken from the person of another at one of these locations.
This charge includes a fine of up to $25,000, financial restitution, and a possible prison sentence of 3 to 7 years.
Class 1 Felony: The theft of property between $100,000 and $500,000, or the theft of money or property valued between $10,000 and $100,000 from a school or place of worship is a Class 1 felony.
This charge includes a fine of up to $25,000, financial restitution, and a possible prison sentence of 4 to 15 years.
Class 1 Non-Probationary Felony: This type of felony is caused by the theft of money or property valued between $500,000 and $1,000,000.
Associated penalties are the same as with a regular Class 1 felony, but those convicted are not eligible for probation.
Class X Felony: A Class X felony is the theft of money or property with a value of more than $1,000,000. It also covers theft of government property and theft that occurs in a school or place of worship that is worth over $100,000.
This charge includes a fine of up to $25,000, financial restitution, and a possible prison sentence of 6 to 30 years.
There are two main ways that theft charges are typically defended – that you had the owner's consent to take the property, or that there was a lack of intent.
Owner's consent. This one is pretty straightforward. You are putting forth an argument that the owner gave you permission to take the property in question. The issue then becomes providing evidence to this effect, which could include a written or recorded statement, testimony, and so on.
Lack of intent. A defense that covers a couple of different potential scenarios. The law states that to commit theft, someone must intend to permanently deprive another of their property. So, when using the lack of intent defense, you can attempt to show either
a.) That you did not knowingly take the money or property in question. For example, let's say your kid shoved a toy into your purse and you didn't know about it. Because of this, you clearly didn't intend to steal it.
b.) That you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property. For example, if you borrowed a friend's car because you needed to get to the store, you might be able to convincingly make this argument.
If you're unsure on how to proceed with your case, the best thing you can do is consult with an experienced Chicago theft attorney who has a successful track record with these types of offenses.