Illinois Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

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Defining Theft Under Illinois Law

In plan English, under Illinois law the crime of theft occurs any time someone's actions result in the unauthorized taking of property or services, along with the requisite intent to commit the crime.

A more complex explanation of theft can be found in Illinois criminal statutes, which defines theft as occurring when a person knowingly:

  • takes unauthorized control over property of another
  • obtains control over property of another by threat or deception
  • obtains stolen property -- either knowing the property is stolen, or under circumstances that should lead to a reasonable belief that the property was stolen (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §5/16-1(a)).  

Classifying Theft Offenses in Illinois

For the most part, Illinois criminal statutes classify theft offenses according to the dollar value of the property or services taken -- and sometimes based on the circumstances surrounding the theft itself. Let’s look at Illinois theft offenses in greater detail.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft in Illinois. The theft of property valued at $500 or less is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois (as long as the property is not taken directly from the person of another). (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §5/16-1(b)(1).) This level of theft is commonly known as petty theft.

Likewise, theft of property with a full retail value of less than $300 (or retail theft) is a Class A misdemeanor.

The typical penalty for a Class A misdemeanor conviction in the state of Illinois is a sentence of imprisonment for less than one year and a fine of no more than $2,500 for each offense, plus payment of restitution for losses associated with the theft. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-55.)

Class 4 Felony Theft in Illinois. Theft of property is a Class 4 felony if the offense was committed in a school or place of worship, or if the theft was of governmental property (assuming the property was not taken from the person of another and does not exceed $500 in value). (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1.)

Additionally, a theft offense that would ordinarily otherwise qualify as a Class A misdemeanor (see above for details) will be charged as Class 4 felony theft if the offender's criminal record includes a conviction for any theft-related offense. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1(b)(2).)

Punishment for a Class 4 felony is a sentence of one to three years and a fine not to exceed $25,000, plus payment of restitution for losses associated with the theft. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-45.)

Class 3 Felony Theft in Illinois. The theft of property valued at more than $500 and not more than $10,000 is a Class 3 felony under Illinois law. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1.)

Even if the property that is the subject of the theft is valued at less than $500, the offense is a Class 3 felony if the property is taken from the person of another.

Additionally, any retail theft of property with a retail value of more than $300 is a Class 3 felony. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16A-10.)

A Class 3 felony conviction usually results in a sentence of two to five years of imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $25,000, plus payment of restitution for losses associated with the theft.  (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-40.)

Class 2 Felony Theft in Illinois. Theft becomes a Class 2 felony offense in Illinois if property valued at less than $500 is taken from the person of another; or if property is valued at between $500 and $10,000 in value and the theft is committed in a school, in a place of worship, or if the property belongs to the government. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1(b)(4.1), (5).)

A Class 2 felony conviction can result in a sentence of imprisonment ranging from three to seven years and a fine of not more than $25,000, plus payment of restitution for losses associated with the theft.  (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-35.)

Other Felony Theft Offenses Under Illinois Law

Theft offenses involving property valued at more $10,000 raise potential issues that are too complex to cover here. Basically, as the dollar value of the stolen property increases, so does the seriousness of the charge and the severity of the punishment. If you want to conduct your own research on specific theft offenses in Illinois, you'll find the relevant statute at 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1.

Civil Penalties for Theft in Illinois

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits retail theft (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits retail theft) is civilly liable for actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise, plus an amount not less than $100 and not more than $1,000, as well as attorney's fees and court costs. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16A-7.)  

Furthermore, a person who commits a theft involving financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability, and who fails to return the stolen property to the victim within 60 days of a written demand for its return, shall be civilly liable for an amount that is three times the value of the property stolen, plus attorney’s fees and court costs. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1.3.)

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