Stealing, theft, robbery, burglary, larceny, shoplifting are all terms that involve taking something that does not belong to you. While you may have an idea of what this means, the law is typically very specific about the definition of crimes because the State must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt against someone accused of any of these crimes.
Under Illinois law, this category of crimes is classified as offenses directed at property. There are several enumerated offenses that all involve property, but have different elements and different definitions.
According to 720 ILCS 5/16, a person commits theft when he or she knowingly obtains or exercises unauthorized control by threat, deception, or with the advance knowledge the property is stolen. Theft also requires the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. What this means is that theft cannot be committed unwittingly. A person has to purposefully take or conceal property that belongs to someone else with the state of mind that they are not going to give it back. For example, theft does not occur if you take a friend’s video game, knowing he doesn’t like to share, but you intended to give it back the very next day. This is not to say a crime has not occurred, but it was not theft because you did not have the required mental state to permanently deprive the owner of his use and enjoyment of the video game.
The sentence for theft depends on the value of the property stolen and whether it was taken off someone’s person. The more valuable the item and the more violating to the owner the crime was, the harsher the penalty.
According to 720 ILCS 5/18, robbery has been committed “when he or she knowingly takes property…from the person or presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force.” Note that the taking of a vehicle would be charged under a different statute.
Aggravated robbery occurs when a weapon or verbal threat of using a weapon to commit the offense, even if there was no weapon at all. Armed robbery is defined as its own offense, occurring when the definition of robbery is met and the offender is actually armed with a dangerous weapon.
Robbery is a Class 2 felony, unless the victim is elderly or disabled or the scene of the crime is near a church or school/daycare, in which case it becomes a Class 1 felony. Aggravated robbery is a Class 1 felony as well. Armed robbery is a Class X felony. There are additional sentences imposed ranging from 15 years up to life imposed depending on if a gun was carried, discharged, or someone was shot during the robbery.
According to 720 ILCS 5/19, burglary doesn’t have to involve people at all. This crime occurs “when without authority he or she knowingly enters or without authority remains within a building, house trailer, watercraft, aircraft, motor vehicle, railroad car, or any part thereof, with intent to commit therein a felony or theft.”
What this means is that someone must enter or stay in one of the above place without permission with the state of mind to commit a felony. For example, if you hide in a store or public building until after closing, hiding so as not to be found, but your goal is not to steal, but to use the bathroom or something innocuous like that, you are not guilty of burglary. This isn’t to say a crime hasn’t been committed, but burglary requires specific intent to perform certain criminal conduct.
A separate statute defines residential burglary, which still requires intent, but the intent is broadened to include theft. Burglarizing a home is a Class 1 felony. Burglary is a Class 2 felony, unless it was committed in or near a school/day care, group home, or place of worship.
There are numerous statutes in Illinois governing crimes against property. It is important to understand that these crimes have necessary elements that must be proven in order to secure a conviction. If you have been accused of this type of crime, secure the representation and assistance of a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney to protect your rights and freedom.