A theft charge can quickly impact your life by ruining your reputation and even threatening your freedom. Unfortunately, a theft conviction can also ruin your chances of claiming certain jobs in the future.
Fortunately, a theft charge is not an automatic prison sentence, no matter how severe the charge may be. Unless prosecutors can prove your charge beyond a reasonable doubt, a thievery conviction cannot happen in the state of Illinois.
What exactly is theft?
Theft refers to taking someone else’s property despite not receiving permission to do so. The taking element of theft might also involve trying to remove or ultimately removing the other person’s property. An important element of theft is that when you take someone’s property, you intend to deprive him or her of it permanently.
What types of theft charges exist?
A couple of important questions in a theft case are as follows:
- What kind of property was involved?
- How much was this property worth?
The answers to these questions determine the degree and category of the theft charge you could face. For instance, a charge of theft in the third degree may be a misdemeanor charge, also known as a petty theft charge, that involves low-market-value property. Meanwhile, a charge of theft in the first degree may be deemed a felony because you allegedly stole more valuable property.
What are my legal options when facing a theft charge?
Even a seemingly minor misdemeanor theft conviction can complicate and damage your life for many years. However, you have the right to fight a theft charge aggressively in the criminal court system. An attorney may challenge your charge by examining what caused your arrest. For instance, perhaps you are accused of stealing an item from a store, but the security team had no valid reason to stop you. Maybe the security team violated your rights while detaining or searching you.
Another possibility is that the store was taking part in profiling or other questionable practices. In these situations, your attorney may be able to get your charges dropped altogether. In addition, if you are a first-time offender, an alternative adjudication program might offer you the best chance to move beyond the incident quickly. Your attorney’s goal is to help you to achieve the most positive outcome given the circumstances surrounding your case.