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Felony Theft Illinois: Understanding the Penalties, Consequences and Defenses

Illinois Felony Theft Laws

Under Illinois law, specifically 720 ILCS 5/16-1, a person commits theft when they knowingly obtain a property owned by another person or exert unauthorized control over a property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its use or benefit. Theft may be committed through deception, threat, or knowingly using, concealing, or abandoning a stolen personal property to deprive the owner permanently of its use or benefit.

In Illinois, the felony theft laws are designed to address property crimes with varying levels of severity based on the value and nature of the property taken. At Hirsch Law Group, we would review your case, investigate further, and defend you against any criminal charges. As a trusted criminal defense attorney in Cook County, we are familiar with the Illinois criminal code and other related laws. By understanding these laws, we aim to offer comprehensive legal representation and uphold the rights of those we defend.

What Constitutes Felony Theft in Illinois

The Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) states that a person commits theft when, among others, they:

  • Obtain unauthorized control over the property of another person; or

  • Obtain the property of another by deception control; or

  • Obtain the propery of another by threat control; or

  • Obtain control over stolen property, knowing it to be stolen; or

  • Obtain control over property in the custody of any law enforcement agency knowing the property to be stolen.

Types of Felony Theft

Felony theft is defined by several factors, including the value of the stolen property and the circumstances under which the theft occurred. Theft becomes a felony when stolen property’s value exceeds certain thresholds and if committed in certain places:

  • Class 4 Felony: Theft of property valued between $500 and $10,000 (if not taken from a person); theft of property with a value not exceeding $500 if committed in a school or place of worship or if the stolen property is governmental property; theft of property not exceeding $500 if committed by someone with a previous conviction of theft, robbery, burglary, and the like.

  • Class 3 Felony: Theft of property not exceeding $500 (if taken from a person); theft of property valued between $500 and $10,000 if taken from a school place of worship; theft that involves deception, such as when the offender falsely poses as a fake landlord and taking the rent payment or security deposit not exceeding $500. Note that organized retail theft is now a Class 3 felony under the INFORM Act.

  • Class 2 Felony: Theft of property valued between $10,000 and $100,000; theft of property valued between $500 and $10,000 if committed in a school or place of worship or if the stolen property is governmental property.

  • Class 1 Felony: Theft of property valued between $100,001 and $500,000; theft of property valued between $10,001 and $100,000 if committed in a school or place of worship or if the stolen property is governmental property.

  • Class X Felony: Theft of property exceeding $1,000,000 in value; theft of property valued between $100,001 and $500,000 if committed in a school or place of worship, or if the stolen property is governmental property.

Special Circumstances and Locations

The severity of theft charges can increase depending on where the theft occurs or the type of property involved:

  • Governmental Property: Theft of any governmental property valued over $500 is considered a felony.

  • Educational and Religious Institutions: Theft committed in a school or place of worship elevates the charges.

  • Vehicle Theft: Theft of vehicles valued between $10,000 and $500,000 can escalate to a Class 1 felony. This includes the unexplained possession of a converted motor vehicle. Read more about the Illinois Vehicle Code relating to theft for more information.

  • Theft by Deception Control: Theft committed by deception can be a Class 3, 2, 1 or X felony, depending on the amount of rent payment or security deposit obtained or if the victim is a person with a disability or 60 years old or older.

For a detailed breakdown of Illinois statutes, refer to the Illinois Compiled Statutes and explore the nuances of theft and related crimes.

Penalties for Felony Theft

In Illinois, felony theft is classified into several categories, each with distinct penalties:

  • Class 4 Felony: One to three years of imprisonment

  • Class 3 Felony: Two to five years of imprisonment

  • Class 2 Felony: Three to seven years of imprisonment

  • Class 1 Felony: Four to 15 years of imprisonment

  • Class X Felony: Six to 30 years of imprisonment

Besides imprisonment, additional criminal penalties may include hefty fines, restitution to the victim, and probation. Certain theft offenses are non-probationable, meaning offenders cannot avoid jail time through probation. The monetary value and location of the theft, among other factors, significantly influence the penalties imposed.

For a comprehensive analysis of Illinois’s theft statutes, visit the Illinois Theft and Other Property Offenses guide.

Common Defenses Against Felony Theft Charges

Several defenses can challenge these accusations, ensuring that justice is served.

  • Duress: If the accused can prove they were forced to commit theft under threat of harm, this can exonerate them from liability.

  • Mistake of fact: For example, if someone believed the property they took was entirely theirs due to a misunderstanding, this defense could apply.

  • Lack of intent: If the prosecution cannot prove that the person charged intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently, the charges might not hold.

  • Owner’s consent: If the property owner had given permission to take or use the property, this negates the theory that a person exerts unauthorized control over the property.

  • Entrapment: A law enforcement officer may have induced someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t have otherwise committed. This defense argues that the accused was unfairly lured into breaking the law.

In each case, a skilled criminal defense attorney from the Hirsch Law Group is crucial. They can evaluate the circumstances and build a robust defense strategy aimed at safeguarding the rights and freedom of the accused. This defense can often involve negotiating plea agreements to minimize penalties.

Navigating such defenses requires legal skills and strategic thinking. Each case is unique, demanding a tailored approach to achieve the best possible outcome for the defendant.

The Role of a Defense Attorney in Felony Theft Cases

Legal representation is vital from the very outset. Early involvement allows the attorney to advise the accused on their rights, ensuring they do not unintentionally compromise their case. Developing a robust legal strategy can significantly impact the outcome.

Defense attorneys scrutinize the prosecution’s evidence for any inconsistencies or weaknesses. They may find procedural errors, unreliable testimonies, or issues related to the handling of evidence. This rigorous approach is essential in shaping the defense strategy.

Negotiating plea deals is another critical function. Attorneys may negotiate for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options to avoid jail time. For individuals previously convicted, this can be particularly important, as potential penalties are often more severe.

Finally, legal representation from an Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer, helps ensure that the defense is handled with professionalism and precision. They provide invaluable assistance, from case evaluation to court representation, ensuring that every possible angle is explored and utilized for the defense.

At Hirsch Law Group, our defense attorneys strive to secure the best possible outcomes for our clients, whether through dismissal, acquittal, or favorable plea agreements.


Felony theft in Illinois carries serious implications that can affect various aspects of one’s life.

Penalties for felony theft vary based on the value involved and the circumstances surrounding the theft. The classification spans from Class 4 felonies to more severe classes with harsher penalties.

Understanding these laws is crucial and navigating the legal system requires careful attention to detail and professional guidance.

Contact us at Hirsch Law Group for a free initial consultation. We strive to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients.