There are two basic categories of theft in Illinois: petty theft and felony theft. While one may sound more serious than the other, both offenses involve harsh penalties. From fines, jail time, court fees, a permanent criminal record, and the obligation to pay back the victims, a conviction for any theft offense can have a lasting effect on your life. With felony theft, however, you will face the very high likelihood a prison sentence, higher fines, revoked second amendment rights, and a severely diminished ability to gain employment in the future.
If you have been charged with a theft crime in Illinois, contact the experienced Chicago defense lawyers at O’Meara Law today. We can help you during the investigation and guide you through the rest of the criminal justice process.
Call us today at 312-909-0706 to find out how we can help.
What Is Theft Under Illinois Law?
Before discussing the difference between petty and felony theft, it’s important to understand exactly how Illinois law defines theft in general. The Illinois theft statute, which can be found at 720 ILCS section 16-1, defines theft as knowingly obtaining or exercising control over someone’s property:
- Without the owner’s consent, or
- Through deception, or
- Through the use of threats
Additionally, you may face theft charges if you gain possession of stolen property or property that you should have known was stolen.
What Is the Difference Between Petty and Felony Theft?
Petty theft is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and up to $2,500 in fines. A prosecutor will charge you with petty theft if you didn’t steal the property from the victim’s person, and the value of the property was less than $500.
Felony theft, on the other hand, applies when greater amounts of property are at stake, or if the property was taken from the victim’s person. The penalties are divided up as follows:
- Class 3 Felony (Up to five years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines) – Property worth less than $300 taken from someone’s person, or property taken under any circumstance worth between $300 and $10,000
- Class 2 Felony (Up to seven years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines) – The stolen property is valued between $10,000 and $100,000
- Class 1 Felony (Up to 15 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines) – Theft cases involving between $100,000 and $500,000
What Should I Do if I’m Charged With Theft?
If you get charged with theft, you will have the opportunity to plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty to your charges. Under no circumstances should you plead guilty or no contest without first consulting with an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. If possible, you should avoid making any statements to the authorities about the facts of your case. Instead, you should hire a Chicago theft attorney to put together a comprehensive defense strategy for your case.
It may be possible to defend your theft case by requesting the judge to suppress the prosecutor’s evidence, or by proving your innocence at trial. Depending on your circumstances, it may also be in your best interest to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor, or to enroll in a first offender’s program.
For more details on your options, call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.