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Understanding Theft Charges in Illinois

 Posted on March 27, 2017 in Theft

Chicago criminal defense attorneysTheft is a crime which can span the proverbial gamut in terms of gravity, at least in Illinois. From a minor retail theft offense to a Class X felony, theft charges can be a minor inconvenience or a life-changing mistake. Either way, if a person has been charged with a theft-related offense, it is imperative that they familiarize themselves with the potential consequences, but also with their rights and responsibilities in responding to such a charge. Misconceptions abound with regard to theft crimes, and if a defendant is not aware of the potential penalties for each charge, he or she may receive an unpleasant surprise upon sentencing, should it progress that far.

Types of Offenses

As you might expect, there are multiple theft charges specified under Illinois law with varying degrees of punishment in the form of fines, jail time, or both. The reason there are so many types of potential charges is that there are multiple factors that must be considered in each case—not only the market value of the property in question, but also the degree of physical harm inflicted (if any), and the intent and circumstances surrounding the taking. The statute specifically defines theft as taking property from someone else, without their permission, with the intent to use, conceal, abandon or otherwise deprive the original owner of the item. All these criteria must be met, as well as assessing the value of the stolen item and other relevant factors.

There are also some exceptional circumstances which may increase the severity of a sentence. For example, theft from a governmental building or entity may be punished severely, even if the dollar value of the item stolen is relatively minimal. Another factor that may play a role is whether or not the theft was undertaken from the actual person, or from something they control. Taking an item from someone’s physical person—like pickpocketing or robbery—is arguably more dangerous than someone stealing from a person’s desk or car. The higher the potential for harm to the victim, the more severe the sentence may be. If one commits the theft of an item worth less than $300 from a store, it will be judged differently than if the same person pickpockets something worth the same amount, or if he or she steals the item from a school or government building.

Specialized Theft Offenses

It is important to keep in mind that crimes such as burglary and receiving stolen property are actually classified as theft crimes in Illinois, which is understandable, given that burglary charges require proof of intent to commit a theft (or related felony). This classification may not matter in the grand scheme of things, but it is sometimes relevant especially if one is required to display good moral character as a precondition to employment or other opportunities. Offenses related to theft, fraud, and the like are seen as “crimes of dishonesty.”  

You should also remember that criminal and civil proceedings may both be mounted for the same action in question. Even if you manage to negotiate a deal or plead to a lesser offense on the criminal charge, you still may face civil penalties which can be extremely costly. It can also affect your future opportunities in areas like school admissions. If you are not a U.S. citizen, it can even adversely affect immigration petitions.

Consult a Knowledgeable Theft Attorney

Theft is a crime that may cause significant hardships due to one moment of impulsive error. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking advice from a knowledgeable attorney can be the difference between a fair settlement and having the proverbial book thrown in your direction. The skilled Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Luisi Legal Group are prepared to put years of experience to work in your case. Call 773-276-5541 for a free consultation today.




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