Theft offenses can be some of the most complex crimes committed in Illinois. They can involve many people performing different acts, not all of whom are necessarily aware of exactly what is going on. If you find yourself embroiled in a theft investigation, a helpful place to start is knowing what a theft offense actually means.
The elements of a theft offense
The basics of every theft offense require exerting some form of control over another person’s property. The control must be exerted without the permission of the owner. Frequently, this involves having physical possession of the property, but not always.
Using deception or threats to obtain control of property can also run afoul of Illinois theft laws. So too can taking control of previously stolen property, under circumstances that would make it reasonable to believe the property has been stolen.
In addition to control, theft laws require that a person intended to permanently deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property. Again, possessing the property itself is the typical way to run afoul of a theft law, but not the only way. Concealing the property or abandoning it can also violate the law. If a person reasonably should have known that the concealment or abandonment would deprive the owner of the property’s use, the elements of a theft offense are satisfied.
Misdemeanor versus felony
As a general rule, theft of property worth $500 or less is considered a misdemeanor. However, the property cannot have been taken directly from the person.
If the value is more than $500, the theft is considered a felony. Even if the value is less than $500, it can still be considered a felony if it was taken directly from the person. Other exceptions to the misdemeanor dollar amount are when the property is taken at a school or place of worship, or if the property is government property.