Understanding the Differences Between Petty Theft and Felony Theft

Theft can be loosely defined as taking property that does not belong to you without permission. How serious are crimes of theft in Illinois? What kind of criminal charges can you face if you’re arrested for theft in Chicago? The answer will depend on (a) what type of theft you’ve committed and (b) the value of the property you’ve been accused of stealing.

All crimes of theft, including embezzlement, theft, and larceny, are classified as either petty theft or felony theft. Which classification your crime falls into will depend on the value of the property involved in your alleged crime.

Petty Theft

Theft will be classified as petty theft when the value of the property involved in the crime is less than $500 and is not taken directly from another person. Petty theft is a Class A Misdemeanor in Chicago and is punishable by:

  • A maximum of 12 months in jail
  • $2,500 in criminal fines, and/or
  • Probation.

Example #1: Mary works for a cleaning service and is assigned to a job cleaning the home of a wealthy Chicago resident. While in the home, Mary notices some cash sitting in a drawer. She tucks $300 into her pocket. Since the value of the stolen property is less than $500, Mary will face charges for petty theft.

Example #2: Bill is walking through Grant Park when he sees a woman pacing back and forth having a heated discussion on her cell phone. Her purse is sitting on the ground about 30 feet away from her, and Bill notices a tablet sticking out of the top. He walks by, takes the tablet from her bag, and continues to walk away. When Bill is arrested, he’s told that he’ll face petty theft charges because the tablet was only worth $200.

Example #3: Alex visits his favorite fast food chain in downtown Chicago. When asked if he would like something to drink, he simply asks for a water cup. When Alex sees that no one is looking, he fills up his water cup with soda. If the fast food chain decided to call the police, Alex could face charges for petty theft.

Felony Theft

Felony theft occurs when property is taken from the person of another and/or the value of stolen property equals or exceeds $500. Taken “from the person of another” means that property is stolen directly from a person’s body, clothing, or immediate control.

Class 3 Felony

Theft is a Class 3 Felony, punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines, when:

  • Property of valued at less than $300 is taken directly from another person; or
  • Property is valued between $300 and $10,000.

Example: Bill is walking through Grant Park and notices that a woman is sitting on a bench having a heated conversation on the phone. This time, her purse is sitting on her lap and she is holding the tablet in her hands. Bill walks up, grabs the tablet out of her grasp, and runs away. Since Bill has taken property valued at less than $300 from her person, he will now face felony theft charges.

Class 2 Felony

Theft is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by a maximum of 7 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines, when:

  • Stolen property is valued between $10,000 and $100,000.

Example: Sue notices that an unattended truck is sitting outside of a medical marijuana dispensary. She walks around back and sees valuable growing equipment, which she promptly takes for her own use. When Sue is arrested, she is told that the equipment she stole is worth $25,000. As a result, she will face Class 2 Felony theft charges.

Class 1 Felony

Theft is a Class 1 Felony, punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines, when:

  • The value of stolen property is between $100,000 and $500,000.

Example: Sam, an executive at a financial firm in Chicago, falsified documents so that he would be able to receive $150,000 in unearned bonus payments. Since the value of the stolen property is between $100,000 and $500,000, he will face Class 1 Felony theft charges.

Class X Felony

Theft is a Class X Felony, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines, when:

  • The value of stolen property exceeds $1,000,000.

Example: Joe, whose employer has many cash transactions, is in charge of paying the bills and making bank deposits every night. Over the course of a few years, Joe is able to steal more than $1,100,000 from his employer. Since the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000,000, Joe will face Class X Felony theft charges.

Chicago Theft Defense Attorneys

Have you recently been arrested on petty theft or felony theft charges in Chicago? If so, do not hesitate to contact the Kostopoulos Law Group for help. Our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys will aggressively fight to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team and learn more.

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