Many people are unaware of the legal difference between theft and burglary because the terms are routinely used interchangeably. In reality, these criminal offenses are two different things under Illinois law and have their own unique legal elements. Moreover, theft and burglary have different types of penalties set out by law.
If you are charged with either theft or burglary, it would be prudent to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They will have vast knowledge of each crime and can help you fight the charges.
Here is a guide on the different elements involved in theft and burglary.
What Is Theft?
The crime of theft means one person is in possession or control of another person’s property or money without their permission. To prove theft criminal charges, the prosecution will need to demonstrate that:
- You took physical control of an asset or property without any intention of returning it.
- The property or asset was taken without the owner’s consent.
- The property or asset is a tangible item.
As per the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012, you have essentially committed theft if you:
- Gained control of someone else’s property without getting authorization from them.
- Gained control of the property through threat or deceit.
- Gained control over a property after knowing it is stolen.
These are a few common examples of theft in Chicago:
- Stealing a vehicle
- Taking away personal property from someone during an argument
- Stealing personal information or credit card information
Theft is a criminal offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or all the way up to a Class X felony. This depends on the value of the stolen asset or property and the method used for stealing it. Theft crimes can be classified as petty theft, grand theft, or theft with a prior conviction on record.
You should have an experienced criminal defense attorney with an aggressive and proactive approach to advocate for your rights if you get charged with theft. Contact The Law Office of Purav Bhatt to talk about your case today.
What Is Burglary?
Burglary doesn’t necessarily involve theft. It refers to the breaking and entering into a dwelling or structure with the intent to commit a crime, such as theft. It is important to understand that breaking and entering does not require a lock to be picked, a window to be broken into, or a door to be forced open. The offender may break and enter even if the door is unlocked or by using a key.
You can be charged with burglary if you enter or remain in any of these with an intent to commit a crime or felony:
- Trailer home
- Motor vehicle
- Railroad car
Burglary can be charged as a Class 1 felony, or a Class 2 felony if it involves child endangerment or occurs in a daycare facility, school, or a place of worship.
What Are the Key Differences Between Theft and Burglary?
Theft and burglary under Illinois law are different on several accounts. The primary difference is the intent behind the crime. In a burglary, the perpetrator unlawfully breaks into someone else’s property with the intent of committing a crime. This can be stealing, kidnapping, arson, or anything else. Conversely, theft involves stealing someone else’s property without permission.
These are a few other key differences:
- In a burglary, the perpetrator is charged with at least two different crimes – breaking and entering and another unlawful task. In a theft, the prosecutor only brings charges of one crime – theft.
- Burglary may involve kidnapping, stealing, or assault, while theft only involves stealing someone’s personal belongings or property.
- Burglary is addressed in the form of serious criminal charges while petty theft could be addressed as a misdemeanor.
- Punishment for theft depends on the degree of crime, whereas the punishment for burglary carries a minimum sentence of at least 6 months and fines.
The penalties for burglary and theft depend on a wide range of factors, including the element of permission, the value of stolen items, and the presence of violence or threats. A seasoned Chicago criminal defense attorney will help you understand the theft or burglary charges against you and find the best possible legal defense strategy to get an acquittal.
Legal Implications of Burglary and Theft in Chicago
The sentencing of theft-related crimes largely depends on property value. If the property is valued at less than $500 and was not directly stolen from someone else, the crime will be considered a Class A misdemeanor. In addition, it should not involve aggravated battery or any other type of felony. Theft is defined under Illinois Statutes Chapter 720 §16-1 as acquiring the property of someone else without their permission or through deception.
These are the legal implications of getting charged with property theft in Illinois:
- Class A misdemeanor: Property should not have been taken directly from someone else and should not be more than $500 in value. Punishment for class A misdemeanors is up to $2,500 in fines and one year in prison.
- Class 4 felony: Property should not have been taken directly from someone else and should not be more than $500 in value. However, these crimes are committed in a school, a place of worship, or involve governmental property. Punishment involves up to $25,000 in fines and 1–3 years in prison.
- Class 3 felony: Property is directly taken from the owner and is valued at $500 or less. Class 3 felony might also involve property that is not taken directly from the person, but is valued between $500 and $10,000. Punishment can amount to $25,000 in fines and 2–5 years in prison.
- Class 2 felony: Property stolen is valued between $10,000 and $100,000. Punishment for class 2 theft-related felony is up to $25,000 in fines and 3–7 years in prison.
- Class 1 felony: Property taken should have a value between $10,000 and $100,000. It should also be committed in a school or place of worship. Punishment for a class 1 felony is $25,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Burglary, in contrast, is considered between class 3 felony and class 1 felony. This means that without a capable criminal defense lawyer, you may be looking at a possible prison sentence of anywhere between 5 to 15 years. Any type of burglary can be constituted as a felony under Illinois state law. However, the class of felony depends on the severity of the offense. This is explained in detail here:
- Burglary without any property damage: This is a class 3 felony in which the accused may have entered the premises through an unlocked window or door.
- Burglary with property damage: This offense is treated as a class 2 felony, especially if it involves residential burglary. This type of burglary involves damaging a door or a window to obtain entry. It may also involve breaking into a locked cabinet in a building or a locked compartment in a car.
- Burglary of a childcare center, school, or a place of worship: This is charged as a class 1 felony under 720 ILCS 5/19-1.
- Burglary of dwelling: Residential burglary is usually considered a class 1 felony under 720 ILCS 5/19-3.
Residential burglary includes more than the usual breaking of a door or a window to gain entry. It also occurs if someone gains entry by pretending to be a representative of a telecommunications company, government agency, or construction company with an intention of committing theft or another crime.
You should consult with a lawyer with vast knowledge of the criminal justice system in Cook County to devise solid defense strategies that help in getting the charges reduced or dropped.
Possible Defenses for Theft
There are several types of defenses available for a potential theft crime that experienced criminal defense lawyers in Chicago can identify and make work for your case.
No Mens Rea
Mens rea or mental intent is a common and effective defense strategy that can help you avoid a felony conviction. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will argue that you did not have the intent to commit a crime even though you may have taken the goods.
Color of Right
Another effective defense strategy available under Illinois criminal law is to raise the defense of color of right. This type of defense is usually raised when the defendant can prove they had reasons to believe they had a possessory or proprietary right to the stolen item, even if in reality they did not.
Title to the Goods
You can defend against charges of theft by showing that you had a possessory or proprietary interest in the goods you took. In essence, you cannot steal something that belongs to you. However, the prosecutor can charge you with theft if you take property from another person through fraudulent means. This is even if you had a possessory or proprietary right to the property.
You can raise identity as a defense to get a not guilty verdict if your alleged offense was not recorded or the recording is of dubious quality. A skilled criminal lawyer can assert that you were not the person that committed the offense and that the law enforcement officials made a mistake in identifying you. You would need some type of evidence, alibi, or corroborative evidence to effectively raise this defense.
You should consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney if you are charged with theft or any other related crimes. Thefts can be considered violent crimes or white-collar crimes, depending on the nature of the offense.
Possible Defenses for Burglary
These are a few common defense strategies that might be used by a committed Chicago burglary lawyer:
Your attorney will use innocence as a defense if you did not commit the crime. They will gather evidence that proves that you did not commit the burglary. If it goes to trial, your attorney will need to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. This can usually be done by having a reliable witness confirm your alibi or other means.
Entrapment is a difficult defense to prove. However, if you were truly a victim of entrapment, meaning a law enforcement official coerced you into committing the crime, your defense could be successful. In general, a Chicago burglary lawyer will use this type of defense only where there is concrete evidence proving it. Legally, a police officer cannot encourage anyone to commit any crime, from burglary to criminal trespass to aggravated criminal sexual assault.
Proving That the Action Was Not Burglary
You may have committed certain actions, but in fact, the actions don’t fit the definition of burglary. You will need an attorney skilled in criminal defense law to prove that your actions don’t meet the legal definition of burglary. For instance, your attorney may argue that the owner gave you their legal consent to enter and that there was no breaking and entering.
Every criminal charge is unique. You should work closely with a proven attorney that can mount an aggressive defense to fight any charges against you.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You
You need to understand your rights and be prepared to fight the charges levied against you. There are multiple ways in which having a dedicated Chicago theft and burglary defense attorney can help you. Your attorney will use their skills and experience to help you obtain a favorable outcome in court. These are a few ways that a skilled attorney can aggressively defend against the charges levied against you:
- Gather necessary evidence to support your defense.
- Listen to and understand your side of the story to prepare a solid defense.
- Aggressively negotiate with the prosecutors on your behalf to have the charges reduced or dropped.
- Exploit weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence and claims.
- Advocate for your best interests.
A tough and proven criminal defense attorney will prepare the best defense for your unique situation to help you get the outcome you want.
Call The Law Office of Purav Bhatt Today!
At The Law Office of Purav Bhatt, our skilled and resourceful criminal defense attorney is ready to fight for you and your rights under all circumstances. If you are facing theft or burglary charges, our tenacious attorneys will do everything possible to have the charges reduced or dropped.
We will examine all facts surrounding your case, prepare a powerful strategy in your defense, and identify serious errors or holes in the prosecution’s claims. To schedule your confidential consultation with our defense team, call us at 773-791-9682 or fill out this online contact form.