Auto Theft Laws in Illinois

In Illinois, motor vehicle theft is prosecuted under the state’s general theft statute; the crime does not have its own statute.

In Illinois, motor vehicle theft is prosecuted under the state’s general theft statute; the crime does not have its own statute. Illinois law does, however, contain statutes that directly address the crimes of carjacking and failure to return a rental vehicle.

Motor Vehicle Theft

Illinois’ theft statute defines several ways that a person may commit the crime. A person commits theft by knowingly:

  • exercising unauthorized control over another’s property
  • using deception to gain control of another’s property
  • threatening the owner to gain control of the property, or
  • obtaining control over stolen property while knowing that the property was stolen, or under circumstances that would make a reasonable person believe that the property was stolen.

Additionally, the person must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property; intentionally use, conceal, or abandon the property in a way that permanently deprives the owner of use or benefit of the property; or use, conceal, or abandon the property knowing that doing so will permanently deprive the owner of use or benefit of the property.

Under the statute, a defendant must either intend to permanently separate the property from its owner’s control, or act knowing that such actions will permanently separate the property from its owner’s control. For example, a person who takes another person’s car without permission and later purposefully rolls the car into a pond commits the crime of theft. If the person leaves the car parked on the street across from the owner’s home, as opposed to leaving the car submerged in a pond, the person may not be charged with theft because the manner in which the person abandoned the car. In other words, although the defendant took the car without permission, the act of leaving the car parked where it will likely be discovered and returned to the owner would undermine the prosecutor’s assertion that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the car (though a charge of joyriding might apply; see below).

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1)

Failure to return a rental vehicle

Under Illinois law, a vehicle renter is presumed to have the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, and thus have committed theft, if the renter fails to return the vehicle within 10 days of a written demand by the owner to do so; or if the renter uses identification with a false name, addresses, or phone number and fails to return the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner’s written demand.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1)

Joyriding

A person who does not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, but merely takes the vehicle for a joyride, may be charged with criminal trespass to vehicles. A person commits that offense by knowingly entering any part of a vehicle without permission. Criminal trespass to vehicles is a Class A misdemeanor.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/21-2)

Carjacking

In Illinois, a person commits vehicular hijacking by using force or threatening the imminent use of force to take a vehicle from the immediate presence of another person.

If the person commits a vehicle hijacking, the crime becomes aggravated vehicular hijacking if any of the following facts exist:

  • the carjacking victim is physically handicapped or over 60 years old
  • a passenger under 16 years old occupies the vehicle at the time of the carjacking
  • the carjacker carries a firearm or other weapon during the crime
  • the carjacker fires a firearm during the offense
  • the carjacker fires a firearm during the offense and causes serious physical harm, permanent disability or disfigurement, or death.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/18-3, 5/18-4)

Penalties

Several factors can affect the severity of punishment for a defendant convicted of motor vehicle theft or carjacking.

Punishment for motor vehicle theft and criminal trespass to vehicles

Theft of a vehicle valued over $500 but not more than $10,000 is a Class 3 felony, which carries up to five years in prison. A defendant convicted of using deception to steal a vehicle worth $5,000 or more from a person 60 or older has committed a Class 2 felony. Class 2 felonies carry a maximum of seven years in prison.

If the stolen vehicle is valued over $10,000 but less than $100,000, the theft is a Class 2 felony. If the vehicle is valued at less than $10,000 but is government property, then the theft is still classified as a Class 2 felony.

Theft of a government-owned vehicle valued over $10,000 but less than $100,000 is a Class 1 felony, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison. Theft of a vehicle valued between $100,000 and $500,000 is a Class 1 felony, and theft of a vehicle worth $500,000 and $1,000,000 is a Class 1 non-probationable felony.

Theft of a government-owned vehicle valued at more than $100,000 is a Class X felony, as is theft of any vehicle valued at over $1,000,000. A Class X felony carries a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The maximum fine for any felony vehicle theft is $25,000.

(625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/4-103; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/5-4.5-25, 5/5-4.5-30, 5/5-4.5-35; 5/5-4.5-40; 5/5-4.5-50)

If the defendant is convicted of criminal trespass to vehicles, a Class A misdemeanor, the defendant may be punished by less than a year in jail and a fine no greater than $2,500.

(730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-55)

Punishment for carjacking

The crime of vehicle hijacking is a Class 1 felony, carrying a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

The crime of aggravated vehicle hijacking is a Class X felony that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. If the defendant carried a dangerous weapon other than a firearm while committing the crime, the judge must sentence the defendant to a minimum of seven years in prison. If the defendant carried a firearm while committing an aggravated vehicle hijacking, the law requires that 15 years be added to the term of imprisonment imposed by the judge. If the defendant fired a gun during the aggravated vehicular hijacking, 20 years is added to the prison term. The judge must add 25 years in prison or up to a natural life sentence if the defendant fired a gun during the crime, and in doing so, caused the victim great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, or death.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/18-3, 5/18-4; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §5/5-4.5-25)

Consult An Attorney

If you are charged with a motor vehicle theft offense, you should speak with an attorney. A conviction for vehicle theft may result in a prison sentence and hefty fine. An attorney will evaluate your case and discuss possible defenses. An experienced attorney is your most valuable asset in fighting motor vehicle theft charges.

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