Anyone charged with theft in Illinois faces potentially serious penalties if they are found guilty. If you are in this position, you must know as much as you can about the theft laws in the state and the possible defenses that are available. Here is a closer look at this important legal topic.
How Does Illinois Define Theft?
The state defines theft as taking control of property owned by someone else. Using deception or a threat to gain control of the property is included in the definition. In addition, the person who takes the property must intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently.
The value of the property does not come into play for an act to be considered a theft. The value of the property or goods does play a role in the seriousness of the charge you will face, as well as the severity of the punishment that you might incur if convicted.
In a legal sense, property does not just refer to such things as real estate or money. The term under Illinois law refers to anything of value, such as labor, services or pets.
How Does Illinois Classify Theft?
Illinois has several classifications for criminal theft, depending on the value of the goods that are involved. The lowest classification of theft, which is associated with the least severe penalties, is misdemeanor theft. This classification is for crimes that involve property worth $500 or less.
If the value of the property is worth more than $500, or you take the property or money from the owner’s person, the theft is classified as a felony. Felony charges can result in quite severe penalties. For instance, if you are found guilty of a Class 1 felony, which is the theft of property valued between $100,000 and $500,000, a sentence of up to 15 years in prison is possible.
How Can You Fight Theft Charges in Illinois?
You have various ways to defend yourself against theft charges. The most straightforward way is to claim that the prosecution is simply mistaken when it claims that you took the property. Perhaps a prosecution witness mistook you for another person, and you are completely innocent.
Another possible defense is that you took someone’s property but you legitimately believed that the property belonged to you. To make this defense viable, you need to show the court sound evidence that you have good reason to believe you had a right to the property.
In some circumstances, having too much to drink is a possible defense against a theft charge. Suppose you were intoxicated and took someone’s cell phone under the mistaken impression that the phone was yours. If you can convince a court that your intoxicated condition was responsible for your act, this defense could be effective.
Intended to Return
A key element of the legal definition of theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. If you are able to prove that you had no such intent, this is a strong defense. For instance, if you borrow a tool from a neighbor, but forget to return it, this act is not a theft under the law.
Coercion or Duress
Being coerced to commit a theft or doing so under duress is a strong defense to theft charges as well. If someone threatens to harm your family unless you steal something, this could constitute the basis for a successful defense.
Anyone charged with theft in Illinois needs excellent legal representation to deal with all of the complex issues involved. At Daniels, Long & Pinsel, LLC, our experienced attorneys are ready to give you the best representation possible. Contact us to learn more.