Illinois Laws on Theft and Shoplifting

Theft penalties in Illinois range from a misdemeanor to a Class X felony. Learn more about the penalties for theft and shoplifting in Illinois.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 30, 2024

Illinois' theft law covers a broad range of conduct, including conduct often referred to as larceny, embezzlement, theft by deception, extortion, and receiving stolen property.

So, for example, a person who steals a wallet could be convicted of theft. A person who embezzles money from another's account can also be charged with theft. It's also theft for a person to steal a family heirloom and seek compensation for its return.

How Illinois Law Defines Theft

Under Illinois law, a person commits theft by:

  • knowingly taking or obtaining control over another's property
  • without authorization (including using threats or deception or knowing it's stolen), and
  • with intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property.

The definition of "property" includes (but isn't limited to) personal property, real property, money, tickets, services, financial instruments, vehicles, animals, and computer programs.

Illinois' general theft statute covers the majority of theft-related crimes, but a few individual theft crimes remain in statute, including identity theft; theft of lost or mislaid property; theft of temporary use of property, labor, or services for hire; theft of utility and communication services; financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult; and retail theft (shoplifting; discussed below).

This article will discuss Illinois' general theft statute and retail theft penalties.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/15-1, 16-1 (2024).)

How Illinois Classifies and Punishes Theft Offenses

Illinois criminal statutes classify theft offenses according to the value of the property or services stolen, as well as the circumstances involved in the theft. On top of incarceration and fines, judges often order defendants to pay restitution to victims for losses associated with the theft.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

The theft of property valued at $500 or less and not taken from a person constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.

The typical penalty for a Class A misdemeanor conviction carries a jail sentence of less than one year and a fine of no more than $2,500 for each offense.

Class 4 Felony Theft

A Class A misdemeanor ($500 or less and not taken from a person) increases to a Class 4 felony theft if:

  • the offense was committed in a school or place of worship
  • the property stolen was governmental property, or
  • the offender has previously been convicted of any type of theft, robbery, burglary, or forgery-related offense.

Punishment for a Class 4 felony is typically a sentence of one to 3 years' prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.

Class 3 Felony Theft

The following thefts constitute a Class 3 felony:

  • Theft of property or services valued at $500 or less and taken from a person.
  • Theft by an offender falsely posing as a landlord in order to steal a rent payment or security deposit of $500 or less.
  • Theft of property or services valued at between $500 and $10,000 and not taken from a person.

A Class 3 felony conviction generally results in a sentence of 2 to 5 years' prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.

Class 2 Felony Theft

A Class 3 felony theft involving $500 to $10,000 of stolen property or services increases to a Class 2 felony if:

  • the offense was committed in a school or place of worship
  • the property stolen was governmental property, or
  • the property stolen was a rent payment or security deposit and the offender falsely posed as a landlord.

A person also commits a Class 2 felony by stealing property or services:

  • valued between $10,000 and $100,000, or
  • valued at $5,000 and taken from a victim age 60 or older.

A Class 2 felony conviction generally carries a sentence of imprisonment ranging from 3 to 7 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.

Class 1 Felony Theft

A Class 2 felony theft involving between $10,000 and $100,000 of stolen property or services increases to a Class 1 felony if:

  • the offense was committed in a school or place of worship
  • the property stolen was governmental property, or
  • the property stolen was a rent payment or security deposit and the offender falsely posed as a landlord.

A person also commits a Class 1 felony by stealing property or services valued between $100,000 and $1,000,000. If the amount exceeds $500,000, the offense does not qualify for probation.

A Class 1 felony conviction generally carries a sentence of four to 15 years' prison time, a fine up to $25,000, and payment of restitution for losses associated with the theft.

Class X Felony Theft

Theft of property or services exceeding $1,000,000 is a Class X felony. In addition, theft of property or services valued at more than $100,000 constitutes a Class X felony if:

  • the offense was committed in a school or place of worship
  • the property stolen was governmental property, or
  • the property stolen was a rent payment or security deposit and the offender falsely posed as a landlord.

A Class X felony conviction generally carries a sentence of imprisonment ranging from 6 to 30 years' prison time and a fine of not more than $25,000.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-1; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-25 to -55; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-5-6 (2024).)

How Illinois Law Defines and Penalizes Shoplifting

A person who commits theft from a retail establishment can face criminal and civil penalties.

What Is Retail Theft?

A person commits retail theft by doing any of the following, with intent to steal or pay less than full retail price for the merchandise:

  • takes possession of or carries away merchandise
  • alters, removes, or switches price tags or other price markings
  • transfers merchandise from one container to another
  • returns or exchanges store merchandise by falsely claiming to be the legal owner, or
  • uses or possesses a theft-detection shielding device or remover.

The person doesn't need to accomplish the theft to be convicted. For instance, a person who conceals an item inside their coat, intending to steal it but gets caught before leaving the store, can still be convicted of retail theft. It's also retail theft to switch price tags of an item in an attempt to pay less than full price for the item—such as swapping price tags on headphone packaging to get a lower price.

Criminal Penalties for Retail Theft

Retail theft of items valued at $300 or less constitutes a class A misdemeanor (penalties listed above). A class A misdemeanor offense bumps up to a Class 4 felony under these three circumstances:

  • The person commits repeat offenses involving the use or possession of a theft-detection shielding device or remover.
  • The person has been previously convicted of a theft, burglary, robbery, or forgery-related offense.
  • The person uses an emergency exit to facilitate the theft.

If the retail value exceeds $300 (the amount can be calculated over the course of a year), the person faces a Class 3 felony. It's a Class 2 felony to use an emergency exit to facilitate retail theft(s) involving more than $300 worth of items.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-25 (2024).)

Civil Penalties for Retail Theft

A person also faces civil penalties for retail theft that involves trying to carry away merchandise or obtain the merchandise for less than full value. A store owner can seek civil damages (in civil court) in the amount of:

  • the full retail value of the merchandise
  • a penalty of $100 to $1,000, and
  • attorneys' fees and court costs.

If the offender is a minor younger than 19, a parent or guardian may be liable for civil damages up to the amount permitted in the state's Parental Responsibility Law.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/16-27 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing any type of theft charges, speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.

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