What is considered Theft?

In Illinois, theft is controlled by 720 ILCS 5/16-1. A person commits the offense of theft when he or she knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over the property of the owner or obtains control over the property through deception or threat. Additionally, you can be charged with theft if you possess stolen property and know the property was stolen.


A theft crime is a criminal act of taking another individual’s personal property without the individual’s consent.  In Illinois, they are classified as felony or misdemeanor. Misdemeanor is taking another person’s property (valued at below $500) without the person’s consent.  Misdemeanor theft is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine. Felony is taking another person’s property (valued at $500 or greater) without the person’s consent.  Felony theft crimes can result in the offender being sentenced with over a year of jail time if convicted.

Another factor in determining the possible penalties for theft is where the theft takes place. Illinois law is designed to protect certain places from theft by increasing the penalties for offenders who commit theft in certain locations. Theft of property not exceeding $500 is still a Class 4 felony if the theft was committed in a school or place of worship or if the theft was of government property. A Class 4 felony is punishable by 1-3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Additionally, a person who has been convicted of theft of property not from the person and not exceeding $500 in value and who has been previously convicted of any type of theft, robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, home invasion, forgery or possession of a stolen motor vehicle will be charged as a Class 4 felony.

If the theft of property has a value of between $500 and $10,000, it will be charge as a Class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies are punishable by 2-5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. This offense will be increased to a Class 2 felony if the value is between $500-$10,000 and the offense took place in a school or place of worship. Class 2 felonies are punishable by 3-7 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Theft offenses between $10,000 and $100,000 are Class 2 felonies as well and increased to Class 1 felonies if the theft occurs at a school or place of worship. Class 1 felonies are punishable by 4-15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Thefts valued between $100,000 and $500,000 are also considered Class 1 felonies unless the theft took place in a school or place of worship. Then the defendant is charged with a class X offense punishable by 6-30 years in prison.

Additionally, certain theft offenses are non-probationable. This means that the defendant must serve a prison sentence and is not eligible for probation, house arrest or any deferred sentence. For instance, if the theft of property is exceeding $500,000 and not exceeding $1,000,000 in value, the offense is considered a Class 1 felony and is non-probationable.

Furthermore, if the victim of the theft was over 60 years old, the penalties increase for theft offenses as well. If the theft is greater than $5000 and the victim is over 60 years of age, the offense is a Class 2 felony.

A person may also be charged with theft if he/she is in possession of an item after receiving written notice from the owner and failing to return the item within 10 days.

Frequently Committed Crimes

The most common crimes include: burglary, shoplifting or retail theft, possession of stolen motor vehicle, identity theft, misuse of credit card, counterfeiting, embezzlement and forgery.


If a person is convicted a theft crime, he/she may be punished with:

  • imprisonment
  • large fines
  • restitution
  • community service
  • probation
  • parole

Due to the life-altering legal consequences that are involved, it is always in a person’s best interest to obtain the services of a criminal defense attorney who has the legal background and knowledge it takes to successfully fight theft crime charges.

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