Illinois criminal law classifies theft (synonymous with larceny) as an offense directed against property, which is defined as "anything of value." While property is often thought of as real estate, tangible possessions or money, the statutory definition of "property" also includes such things as written instruments, labor, services, electricity, pets, or anything else of value to the owner.
A person commits theft of property belonging to another when he or she knowingly:
- Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner;
- Obtains control over property of the owner by deception;
- Obtains control over property of the owner by threat;
- Obtains control over stolen property knowing it was stolen or if a reasonable person would know it was stolen; or
- Obtains or exerts control over property in the custody of an undercover law enforcement officer who explicitly represents the property as stolen.
In addition to obtaining or exerting control over another person's property, the person committing theft must also:
- Intend to permanently deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property;
- Knowingly use, conceal or abandon the property in such a way as to permanently deprive the owner of its use or benefit; or
- Use, conceal, or abandon the property knowing that such use, concealment or abandonment will probably permanently deprive the owner of its use or benefit.
While stolen property need not have a minimum value to complete the offense, the property's value will determine the level of a convicted person's sentence. The value of stolen property is its fair cash market value at the time of the theft, not its original cost.
Illinois Theft/Larceny Laws at a Glance
The following table lists the charges and potential penalties under Illinois theft/larceny laws.
Illinois Statutes Section 5/16-1 (theft)
|Penalties and Sentences
Illinois theft/larceny laws penalize convictions according to the nature of the offense, the fair cash market value of the property stolen, and the presence of prior related convictions. In particular, the grade of a theft conviction will be heightened if the crime was committed in a school or place of worship, or if the theft was of governmental property. Generally, classification of theft convictions range (from low to high) as follows:
- Class A misdemeanor: Theft of property, other than from the owner's person, of up to $500 in value. This is punishable by less than one year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
- Class 4 felony: Theft as described above committed in a school, place of worship, or of governmental property; or committed by a person previously convicted of a related, specified crime. This is punishable by 1-3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class 3 felony: Theft of property from the owner's person of up to $500 in value; or theft of property, other than from the owner's person, of $500-$10,000 in value. This is punishable by 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class 2 felony: Theft of property of $10,000-$100,000 in value. This is punishable by 3-7 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class 1 felony: Theft of property of $100,000-$500,000 in value. This is punishable by 4-15 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class 1 non-probational felony: Theft of property of $500,000-$1,000,000 in value. This is punishable by 4-15 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class X felony: Theft of property of more than $1,000,000 in value. This is punishable by 6-30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
See Theft Penalties and Sentencing for more details.
Defenses can include:
- Lack of intent to permanently deprive (i.e. intent to return)
- Mistake of fact
NOTE: Once a theft has been committed, it is NOT a defense that the guilty person later restores the property to its owner.
See Theft Defenses to learn more.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Illinois Theft/Larceny Laws: Related Resources
Charged With Theft in Illinois? An Attorney Can Help
There are a variety of charges you could face if you've been accused of theft which can depend on factors such as the value of the property in question. Remember, it's the prosecution's burden to prove the case against you beyond any reasonable doubt. Having an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney at your side can make all the difference.