Burglary and Home Invasions in Illinois

Illinois lawmakers have enacted laws criminalizing burglary (entering a building intending to commit a crime inside), home invasion (entering an inhabited dwelling and causing injury or using or threatening force while armed), and trespass (entering a person’s property without permission). Some of these crimes carry very stiff penalties. For general information on these crimes, see Home Invasions, Burglary: Penalties and Sentencing, and Trespassing Penalties.


Traditionally, burglary was defined as breaking and entering into a home at night with the intent to commit a felony inside. Today, most states have done away with these requirements and a person commits burglary by entering into any building without permission with the intent to commit a crime inside. In Illinois, a person commits the crime of burglary by entering or remaining in a building or vehicle (or any part of a building or vehicle) without permission with the intent to commit theft or a felony (a crime punishable by a state prison term). Burglary is punished more severely if the building is a:

  • school
  • day care center, or
  • place of worship.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/19-1.)

Residential burglary

Illinois also has a law criminalizing residential burglary, which is entering or remaining in someone else’s dwelling without permission in order to commit theft or a felony inside. A person who breaks into a home intending to steal a television commits residential burglary. Residential burglary and burglary are mutually exclusive offenses, which means that a defendant commits one or the other, based on the nature of the burglarized building. The offense can also be committed by someone pretending to be an employee of the government, a construction company, or a utility company, in order to commit a crime inside a dwelling.

A dwelling is a house, apartment, mobile home, trailer, or other place in which a person lives or soon intends to live. For example, vacant and uninhabitable buildings are not dwellings, but an RV in which a person lives is a dwelling, as is a new home ready for occupancy. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/19-3.)

Residential burglaries that involve violence and other acts can become home invasions, as explained below.

Intent to commit a crime

In order to convict people of burglary, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they entered the building with the intent to commit a crime inside. In most cases, the defendant’s illicit intention can be inferred from the circumstances, and the prosecutor is not required to establish exactly what was going through the defendant’s head. For example, if two people break down the door of a home and take a television and laptop, the jury could infer that the people entered the home to commit a crime. Even if police stopped the people before they escaped with the stolen goods, they could still be convicted of burglary (and attempted theft). The crime of burglary occurs as soon as the defendant enters into the building or vehicle with the illicit intent, even if the intended felony or theft never occurs.

Home Invasion

Under Illinois law, home invasion is a very serious offense. A defendant commits the crime of home invasion by entering or remaining in another person’s dwelling without permission, knowing that a person is home, and the defendant either:

  • is armed with a firearm or other weapon and uses or threatens to use force
  • injures someone
  • uses or threatens to use force and fires a gun, or
  • commits sexual assault or sexual abuse.

A would-be home invader who immediately leaves the dwelling or surrenders as soon as he realizes that another person is present may be able to defeat a charge of home invasion. By offering what's known as an "affirmative defense," this defendant must prove to the jury that he acted as just described (plus, he must not have hurt or attempted to hurt anyone). If they believe him, they cannot convict him of home invasion. The defendant could, however, be convicted of a lesser offense, such as trespass, explained below. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/19-6.)


A person commits trespass by entering onto property without permission from the owner. In Illinois, a person commits the crime of residential trespass by entering or remaining in another person’s residence without permission. Residential trespass is punished more severely if the residence is occupied at the time of the offense. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/19-4.)

Burglary Tools

Like many states, Illinois makes it a crime to possess any key, explosive, tool, or instrument that can be used to break into a building, vehicle, safe, or vault with the intent to use it to commit a felony or theft. Unless the defendant is a locksmith, security employee, private detective, or law enforcement officer, a judge or jury can infer criminal intent from the possession of a key designed for lock picking. It is also a crime to sell a key designed for bumping (a way of picking locks). (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/19-2, 5/19-2.5.) For more information on how even everyday items can become burglar’s tools, see Burglary Tools.


Burglary is a Class 2 felony, which can result in a prison term of three to seven years. Burglary of a residence, school, day care center, or place of worship is a Class 1 felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Home invasion is a Class X felony, normally punishable by six to 30 years’ imprisonment, and additional terms of 15 to 25 years to life may be added in many cases.

Trespass of an occupied residence is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison. Otherwise, criminal trespass is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, up to two years of probation (formal supervision), and a fine of up to $2,500. Possession or sale of burglary tools is also a Class 4 felony. For more information on sentencing, see Illinois Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Illinois Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you are charged with burglary or any other crime, you should talk to an experienced local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain the law to you and help you navigate the criminal justice system.

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