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Petty Theft in Illinois: Understanding the Legal Consequences

Petty theft in Illinois falls under the broader legal category of theft, which is a criminal offense. While there is no specific offense referred to as petty theft in the Illinois Code, petty theft is usually used to refer to the offense of theft where the value of the property stolen is minor (typically under $500).

The penalty for theft heavily depends on the value of the stolen property and other surrounding circumstances. It is crucial for those accused of theft to understand the charges they face and the potential legal ramifications. It is also essential to have a skilled defense attorney to give you a fighting chance against the charges.

Our leading criminal defense law firm, Hirsch Law Group, has dedicated itself to defending individuals in Joliet, Illinois, against various charges, including those related to theft. Everyone deserves exceptional legal representation. So, if you’re facing petty theft charges, contact us to help you overcome this legal difficulty.

Understanding Petty Theft in Illinois

Petty theft is often considered a less severe form of theft under Illinois law. As mentioned earlier, Illinois has no legal benchmark for what constitutes “petty” theft. However, in most cases, petty theft would refer to misdemeanor theft rather than felony theft. 

Definition and Legal Context of Theft

The legal definition of theft encompasses any instance in which an individual knowingly obtains or conceals a person’s property without authorization, intending to permanently deprive the owner of its use. Theft can manifest through various methods, including deception, threat, or possession of stolen items.

Petty Theft

What is often called petty theft in Illinois is a crime charged as a Class A misdemeanor. It refers to instances of theft where the stolen property is valued at less than $500 and not taken directly from the person. 

Where other factors are involved in the theft, charges can escalate to felony levels. For example, if the property stolen is less than $500 in value and not stolen from a person but the theft happens on school grounds, in a place of worship, or the property stolen is governmental property, the theft becomes a Class 4 felony.

Where the stolen property is valued at less than $500 but stolen from a person, the offender is charged with a Class 3 felony. Lastly, a person who would otherwise be charged with misdemeanor theft may be charged with a Class 4 felony if they have previously been convicted of any theft-related offense.

Consequences of Petty Theft

Penalties for petty or misdemeanor theft in Illinois include fines and incarceration. Class A misdemeanors are the most severe of all misdemeanor offenses. Individuals charged with it may face fines up to $2,500 and imprisonment for up to one year. Also, they may be sentenced to a probation period of up to two years. 

If certain factors have escalated the theft to felony levels, imprisonment, and fines also increase. Fines can go up to $25,000, while imprisonment can go up to 5 years or more for felony theft of property valued at less than $500.

Additionally, the repercussions of a theft charge can extend beyond legal penalties, potentially impacting future employment and personal relationships. A felony conviction will especially significantly impact the offender’s personal life.

Possible Legal Defense Strategies

In Illinois, being charged with petty theft can lead to severe consequences, but understanding the possible defenses available could be the first step in surmounting your case. When our clients face theft offenses, we guide them through each phase, from the initial charge to the final resolution. We work closely with our clients to develop a tailored defense strategy, scrutinizing the evidence and preparing for trial or negotiations with the prosecutor.

Here are key defense strategies we may employ:

  • Challenging the evidence: Asserting that the proof against our client is insufficient or wrongly obtained.

  • Lack of intent: In cases like theft by deception or threat, demonstrating that there was no intention to commit a crime can weaken the case against the defendant. We may be able to do this by laying out carefully crafted arguments and evidence before the court.

  • Proving ownership: If our clients had a reasonable belief that the property belonged to them, it is a viable defense we can employ.

  • Questioning witness credibility: Any discrepancies in witness testimonies can be pivotal.

We understand that sentencing for crimes like felony theft may involve a jail sentence, but alternatives like probation are also possible. Our job is to pursue the best possible outcome, which can often mean advocating for reduced charges or seeking leniency based on our client’s criminal record or personal circumstances. Work with a skilled Illinois theft lawyer from Hirsch Law Group to receive the highest quality of legal representation. 

Additional Legal Considerations

Apart from petty theft, there are several categories of theft crimes under the law, such as retail theft, theft of labor or services, theft of lost property, and so on. There are also instances of receiving stolen property, unauthorized control over property, and acts like altering price tags or shoplifting through an emergency exit. These theft forms carry different penalties, some steeper than others. Also, the severity of theft charges scales up with the value of the stolen items.

Additionally, theft may be coupled with another crime, like a traffic violation, in an attempt to flee from the initial crime scene. Such a multiple-offense scenario will lead to steeper penalties than, say, a shoplifting charge, which may only lead to you being issued a citation without getting arrested. 

Special consideration is also given to the method in which the property theft is conducted. Use of deception, forgery, or scenarios involving a landlord illegally retaining a rent payment or security deposit adds layers to the offense. Depending on the method of theft, the charge could go all the way up to a Class X felony, which is the most severe felony in Illinois, save for first-degree murder.

Hirsch Law Group’s Approach to Petty Theft Cases

As experienced defense attorneys in Chicago, our strategy revolves around a holistic understanding of the law coupled with a client-focused approach.

Meticulous Analysis: Our defense team meticulously analyzes the circumstances surrounding each theft case, ensuring clients receive a robust defense. 

Property Valuation: In cases of alleged petty theft, determination of the total retail value of items involved in theft crime is critical, and our attorneys are skilled at challenging valuations to protect our client’s interests.

Robust Defense Strategy: We craft a defense approach that suits our client’s unique situation, ensuring the highest chance at a favorable outcome. Our record of achieving favorable outcomes, as evidenced by our client reviews, is a testament to our dedication. 

Negotiation: Where getting the charges completely dismissed may not be feasible, we focus on pleading down charges to significantly reduce the possible penalties. Effective negotiation is part of our repertoire, aiming to minimize the impact of criminal charges on our clients’ lives. 

Remember, when facing misdemeanor theft allegations, you’re not just a case number to us. We prioritize your life, reputation, and future.

Fight Your Petty Theft Charges With Hirsch Law Group

In our practice at Hirsch Law Group, we’ve seen firsthand the complexities that result from theft charges in Illinois. At our firm, we approach each case with empathy, experience, and equality. We understand the stress of facing criminal charges and the importance of a vigorous defense. Our commitment is to protect our client’s rights and achieve a positive outcome.

If you or someone you know has been charged with petty theft, we encourage you to reach out to us. Trust us to apply our knowledge to help you overcome this legal difficulty. Your peace of mind and future are our top priorities.