Theft Crimes

To most people the terms theft and robbery seem to refer to the same crime.  Both crimes involve someone taking another person’s property without permission; however, legally they are different crimes.  In Illinois, theft and robbery are separate crimes that are prosecuted differently.

What is Robbery?

Robbery is defined in Illinois as intentionally taking another person’s property either by force or the threat of imminent force.  Two factors must be present: 1) knowingly taking the property from the person in his presence or the presence of another, and 2) using threat or the threat of immediate force.  This differs from theft because the property is taken in the presence of a person while also using force or threatening force. In Illinois, robbery is a felony conviction; the circumstances of the crime will dictate which class of felony the crime falls under.  Depending on the location, age of the victim and whether a weapon was present, the robbery may be a Class 2 felony, Class 1 felony or Class X felony.

What is Theft?

Theft is defined in Illinois as knowingly taking another person’s property.  The Illinois Theft Statute reads:

A person commits theft when he or she knowingly:

  1. Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner; or
  2. Obtains by deception control over property of the  owner; or
  3. Obtains by threat control over property of the owner; or
  4. Obtains control over stolen property knowing the property to have been stolen or under such circumstances as would reasonably induce him or her to believe that the property was stolen; or
  5. Obtains or exerts control over property in the custody of any law enforcement agency which any law enforcement officer or any individual acting in behalf of a law enforcement agency explicitly represents to the person as being stolen or represents to the person such circumstances as would reasonably induce the person to believe that the property was stolen, and
    1. Intends to deprive the owner permanently of  the use or benefit of the property; or
    2. Knowingly uses, conceals or abandons the  property in such manner as to deprive the owner permanently of such use or benefit; or
    3. Uses, conceals, or abandons the property knowing such use, concealment or abandonment probably will deprive the owner permanently of such use or benefit. (Illinois Statute)

While robbery is always a felony, theft can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the value of what has been stolen. Additionally, the circumstances of the crime such as location, presence of the victim and use of force determine the severity of the crime. Theft of less than $500 is a Class A misdemeanor.

What is Retail Theft?

Commonly referred to as shoplifting, retail theft is a serious criminal offense.  Retail theft occurs when a person knowingly:

  • takes an item from a store without paying for it
  • alters the label or replaces the label in order to pay less for the item
  • switches the box, packaging or container in order to pay less for the item
  • rings the product up for less
  • uses a theft detection shielding device to remove items from the store without purchasing them

According to the National Learning and Resource Center, 25% of shoplifters are children and 75% are adults.  Employees also account for retail theft. Research shows that 75% of employees have admitted to stealing from their employer at least one time. Similarly to other crimes, the extent of the sentence is determined by the circumstances of the crime.  The higher the amount of the theft, the more severe the penalty. Theft of less than $300 is a Class A misdemeanor.  Subsequent offenses become felonies.

Penalties of Theft

As stated above, the specific penalties of the offense are determined by the severity of the case.  The amount stolen, location of theft and previous record of the offender all play a part in establishing whether a theft will be a misdemeanor or felony.  Possible consequences of theft include:

  • prison or jail sentence
  • probation, conditional discharge or supervision
  • large fines
  • make restitution
  • affect employment opportunity

Not all consequences of shoplifting will be sentenced by the judge. Present and future employers will not want to see a shoplifting conviction on your record.  A retail theft conviction can have detrimental impact on your future employment opportunities.

Civil Liability for Theft

In addition to a criminal conviction, theft carries a civil liability as well.  The Illinois statute holds the offender civilly liable to the merchant for the theft for:

  • actual damages equal to the full retail value of  the merchandise; plus
  • an amount not less than $100 nor more than  $1,000; plus
  • attorney’s fees and court costs

Hire a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with theft, make sure to hire an experienced Chicago criminal attorney to defend your case.  Theft is a serious offense with severe penalties including possible jail time, fines, and probation.  A conviction will be a part of your permanent record and can affect future employment opportunities.  The assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical if you have been charged with theft. Contact Michael P. Chomiak, an experienced criminal defense attorney, to discuss your case.

Call 312.993.9200 or Free Case Evaluation