In Illinois, theft is defined as knowingly obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over another’s property by deception or use of threats. Common theft crimes in Illinois include retail theft, credit or debit card fraud, and burglary. Penalties for theft crimes range from a Class A misdemeanor (less than one year in county jail) to a Class X felony (6 to 30 years in the state penitentiary), depending on the type of theft in question. Generally, the greater the value of the property taken, the higher the potential jail time and fines.
A person commits retail theft when he or she knowingly
(1) takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed,
held, stored or offered/sale in a retail establishment;
(2) with the intention of either retaining such merchandise, or depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise; and
(3) does so without paying full retail value of such merchandise.
Retail theft also includes changing the price tags on goods or switching the packaging to avoid paying full price, or obtaining cash or store credit after returning merchandise under false pretenses.
Credit or Debit Card Fraud
This type of fraud goes beyond using another person’s credit or debit card information to make unauthorized purchases. This type of fraud, at the very least, requires a showing of:
(1) unauthorized use; and
(2) intention to defraud.
720 ILCS 5/17-31–47. Credit or debit card fraud includes possessing another person’s credit or debit card information with the intent to defraud, making a false statement to procure a credit or debit card, using a card that is fake or expired, and misrepresenting yourself as a cardholder in order to obtain money, property or services.
In Illinois, a person commits a burglary when he or she, without authority, knowingly enters or remains within a building, house trailer, watercraft, aircraft, railroad car, motor vehicle or any part thereof with the intent to commit a felony or theft. 720 ILCS 5/19-1(a). Burglary is classified as a Class 2 felony (3 to 7 years in the state penitentiary), but depending on the place that was burglarized, the penalty can be elevated to a Class 1 felony (4 to 25 years in the state penitentiary).
When analyzing the facts and circumstances of a burglary charge, it is important to identify the elements the State must prove. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the State would, at the very least, must prove that the alleged perpetrator:
(1) knowingly entered a building, house trailer, watercraft, aircraft, railroad car, motor vehicle or any part thereof;
(2) did so without authority; and
(3) did so with the intent to commit a felony or theft
A finding of guilt can only result if the State meets every one of the above propositions beyond a reasonable doubt. If the State fails to establish any one of the them, then the alleged perpetrator cannot be guilty of burglary.
A primary issue in defense of a theft case, however, is intent. If the State cannot prove the specific intent required under the statute, then the State is generally forced to either reduce or dismiss the charges. If you or a loved one are facing theft charges, it is important to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney who will thoroughly review all of the evidence, identify all potential issues with the State’s case, and devise an aggressive defense strategy to help fight any of the above theft charges.