Is non-violent theft a misdemeanor or a felony offense?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2024 | Theft, Robbery And Burglary |

It is against the law to steal property that belongs to someone else in Illinois. Prosecutors can bring charges against those accused of stealing merchandise from a shop or committing armed robbery in the streets. Exactly what charges the state pursues and the penalties someone could face depend on the situation.

The use of physical violence or weapons when committing a theft offense can quickly exacerbate the situation and may lead to very severe charges. Felony charges are more likely in cases involving violence and weapons. However, many property offenses do not involve physical violence, weapons or even threats against an individual. As a result, people sometimes assume that property crimes that do not lead to injury are automatically misdemeanor offenses. The law in Illinois has a bit more nuanced than that. Prosecutors can charge non-violent theft offenders with either a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the circumstances at hand.

What determines the charges that someone faces?

Aggravating factors, including the use of violence or forced entry onto private property, can increase the likelihood that the state may pursue felony charges over a theft incident. A lack of violence does not automatically guarantee that Illinois state prosecutors decide to bring misdemeanor charges against someone.

The value of the property stolen can have a direct impact on how prosecutors treat a situation. The higher the value of the property, the more likely someone is to face felony charges. Illinois actually has a relatively low threshold for felony theft offenses when compared with many other states.

The total value of the assets involved only needs to reach $500 for the state to justify how many charges. As the value of the property increases, the severity of the charges and seriousness of the potential penalties increase too. There are multiple different classes of felony theft offenses, including Class X felony charges if the property is worth a million dollars or more.

Those accused of shoplifting could potentially face felony charges if they target high-value items like electronics or jewelry. Those accused of robbing someone’s home or stealing a wallet could very easily hit that $500 threshold that could lead to felony theft charges.

Understanding how Illinois handles different theft offenses may benefit those evaluating different defense strategies when responding to pending charges.