What You Can Do When You Are Accused of Petty Theft
Illinois has some tough laws against theft, and those laws can be used to destroy the lives of people who don’t deserve it. It’s an unfortunate situation, and it’s important to me that those who are accused of theft crimes know what the penalties may be and what they can do to avoid those penalties.
To begin with, let’s talk about what petty theft is. Petty (or petit) theft in Illinois involves the theft of between $150 and $300 of property from another. It’s on the smaller (or “petit”) side of theft, and so the consequences are meant to be somewhat scaled down.
Unfortunately, those consequences are still pretty severe. In Illinois, they include a fine of $2500 and a year in prison. That’s quite a serious punishment for accusations that can include the theft of office supplies and shoplifting.
Thankfully, there are defenses against these accusations that you can use to avoid those penalties. According to Illinois criminal defense lawyer Tom Bruno of Bruno Law Offices, some potential defenses include:
- Claiming ownership of the objects you are accused of stealing
- Claiming intoxication and therefore no intentional act of theft
- Claiming mistaken identity, in other words, that you weren’t the person who committed the theft
- Claiming that you forgot you had the items and accidentally took them
- Using the fact the items were not found on you to prove you didn’t take them
- A general lack of intent to steal
These defenses sometimes overlap and they may or may not apply to your case. The important thing is to use the defenses that are strongest for your situation to help prove that you either didn’t mean to steal anything or else outright didn’t steal anything.
Obviously, while on the surface these can seem like very straightforward defenses, you will still need a criminal defense lawyer’s help. It will take a strong acquaintance with the law and the evidence to make the defense strong enough to withstand a prosecutor’s efforts to paint you as a thief.
The Illinois criminal justice system is over-burdened because it so aggressively punishes those who are accused of the most minor crimes. There’s no reason those accused of a first-time petty theft charge should have to spend a year in prison, particularly if the circumstances surrounding their case are not straightforward. If you didn’t mean to steal anything, or if you didn’t steal anything, you shouldn’t be punished at all. Even if intent is there, we shouldn’t be taxing our already over-filled prison system to find more space for those who have done so little wrong.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the law will change any time soon and become more merciful, so the best we can do is make sure everyone accused of these crimes has the best defense possible. Use the tips in this article, and get the best lawyer you can, and hopefully, you can beat the charges against you.