Understanding Misdemeanor Theft Charges in Illinois

Stealing from a storeBeing arrested and charged with theft is typically an extremely stressful situation. But what theft legally entails and what must be proven by the prosecution for a defendant to be ultimately found guilty of such a crime is set out by statute in Illinois.  At Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, we want the public to fully understand all important aspects of this law, and learn what can be done to protect oneself in the event of an arrest. Here’s some information that you may find helpful in understanding misdemeanor theft charges in Illinois.

Theft Charged in the State of Illinois

Under the laws of the state of Illinois, theft is an offense related to property, which refers to “anything of value”. Although property is commonly thought of as only money, any physical possessions such as jewelry, cars, real estate or anything of any value at all can be considered property. The statutory definition also refers to things that are not physical in nature but are of value to the owner nevertheless such as services, utilities, or even labor.

The crime of theft occurs when a person knowingly obtains:

  • Unauthorized control over another person’s property, or
  • Control over property through deception, or
  • Control over property by threat, or
  • Stolen property, either knowing it was stolen, or in such circumstances that a reasonable person would have known it was likely stolen, or
  • Control over the property in the custody of an undercover officer or another who has explicitly represented the property as stolen

Beyond obtaining or controlling another’s property, the individual charged with theft must also:

  • Stealing from a storeIntend to deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property permanently, or
  • Knowingly abandon, conceal, or use the property in a manner so as to deprive the owner of the property of its use or benefit permanently, or

Misdemeanor Theft Charges in Illinois

Theft (also known in some jurisdictions as larceny) laws in Illinois are generally classified based upon the nature of the criminal offense, the presence of prior related criminal convictions, and the value of the property stolen. These charges may range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class X felony – which could result in a lengthy prison sentence in some circumstances. Misdemeanor theft charges refer to theft of under a certain value in property or merchandise, depending upon whether the theft was in relation to retail merchandise or otherwise. Depending upon the charging document, sometimes a defendant may, however, be charged with an offense that is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor, but instead is called a petty offense or an ordinance violation.  These types of cases are not usually punishable by jail at all.

Defending Against Theft Charges

In order for misdemeanor theft charges to lead to a criminal conviction, the prosecution must be able to demonstrate to the judge or jury the intent of the accused to have committed the crime. There are several common defenses for theft charges which may be used to undermine this proof of intent. These include:

  • An intention to return the property
  • Mistaken circumstances which led to obtaining the property
  • Duress or coercion
  • Entrapment
  • Impaired mental state (insanity)

Contact an Experienced Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

The Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have decades of experience defending clients accused of theft in Illinois. We work diligently to ensure our clients’ rights are protected. Don’t hesitate to call our offices to learn how we can help you fight your misdemeanor theft charges. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with convenient office locations in Arlington Heights, Chicago and elsewhere. Contact us today at (312) 644-0444 for a free initial consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : August 4, 2020