Proving Intent to Steal in Illinois Burglary Cases

BurglaryIn Illinois, you may be charged with theft if you steal anything of value and exert unauthorized control over the property of its rightful owner. Theft crimes range from stealing tangible goods and money to scamming others online or over the phone. One of those theft crimes is sometimes known as burglary with intent to steal, which means entering a residence or building and with the intent to commit a theft or a felony. Depending on the defendant’s criminal history, a person so charged may face anything from probation and minor fines to extensive time in prison.

What is Burglary With Intent to Steal?

You do not have to have actually stolen anything to be convicted of burglary. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the entering of a building, plane, boat, or car was unauthorized, and there was at least an intent to steal something or commit another felony at the time of the entrance. There is also an even more serious form of burglary called residential burglary. In order for the crime to be classified as residential burglary under Illinois, the following must occur:

  1. A person knowingly enters another person’s home or dwelling
  2. Entry occurs with the intention of stealing something or committing another felony.


  1. A person falsely represents themselves as part of a government organization, telecommunications, construction or utility company to gain access to a home.
  2. Entry occurs with the intention of stealing something or committing another felony.

How Do You Prove Intent to Steal?

BurglaryThe prosecution must be able to prove that each of the aforementioned elements occurred in order to prevail at trial. However, what is often most difficult for the prosecution to prove is the state of mind of the accused at the time the crime was committed. If they cannot prove this intent based upon circumstantial evidence or testimony, then they may be forced to settle for a criminal trespass, which is typically a misdemeanor. That makes the punishment for the crime much less severe. The defendant may also be acquitted entirely if the prosecution cannot prove any one of the above-mentioned elements.

The right criminal defense attorney may be able to successfully argue against these allegations. For example, your defense counsel may challenge the definition of “unauthorized” as it pertains to the property in question. Did you have permission to enter previously, and was it ever revoked? Your defense lawyer may also try to argue that entering the property was a mistake, as the defendant might have meant to enter a different property instead.   - Or your attorney might attempt to demonstrate that the defendant was coerced into entering the home, otherwise known as entrapment. An attempt to later return the stolen property is typically never a good defense, however.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

The criminal defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have decades of experience defending clients accused of burglary in Illinois and will work diligently to find the defense that best increases your chances for staying out of jail or prison. Don’t hesitate to call our offices to learn how your rights can be protected. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with convenient office locations in Arlington Heights, Chicago and elsewhere. Contact Us now at (312) 644-0444 for a free initial consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : October 21, 2019