Illinois Property Crimes: Burglary
In a recent post on this blog, we talked a little bit about the differences between two common types of property crimes—specifically the offenses of theft and robbery. That post also made reference to a third offense that is often lumped in with the other two despite being rather different. The crime of burglary is one that is frequently misunderstood but can lead to serious criminal consequences for those who are convicted.
What Is Burglary?
According to Illinois law, the crimes of theft and robbery involve the taking or attempting to take property belonging to another person. Burglary, however, does not require the offender to take or to try to take anything; his or her intent is what matters. The Illinois Criminal Code provides that a burglary occurs when a person gains unauthorized access to a home, building, boat, airplane, car, or trailer with the “intent to commit a felony or theft.” So, what does that mean?
Perhaps the more colloquial term “breaking and entering” is a little clearer. Strictly speaking, burglary does not refer to the taking of another’s property; it only addresses the offender’s access to the property in question, though “breaking in” is also not statutorily necessary. For example, a person can be charged with burglary for walking into an unlocked house with the intent to steal something.
Proving Intent and Add-On Charges
Burglary is a Class 2 felony unless it occurs at a school, day care, or church, in which case, it becomes a Class 1 felony. In order to obtain a conviction, however, prosecutors must show that offender had the intent of committing a theft or felony. If the offender gained access to the property and began loading items into a sack before being caught, his or her intent to commit theft is fairly obvious and may result in charges of both burglary and theft.
If the offender gains access or stays on the property when the property is occupied—while the owners of the house are sleeping, for example—the situation can become even more serious very quickly. The Class X felony charge of home invasion may be appropriate if the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon and he or she threatens or injures any of the occupants. If, however, the offender surrenders or leaves the premises immediately when he or she realizes the property is occupied, the home invasion charge may be reduced to burglary.
Skilled Legal Guidance
At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we understand that a charge of burglary can change your life. If you or a loved one has been arrested, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney immediately. We will help you protect your rights and look for ways to limit the damage to your future. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.