Sometimes a crime of opportunity can turn into a more significant crime than you may have first realized, as a car thief recently found out in Bridgeview, Illinois.
A local man left his car in front of a gas station to run inside. When he came back out, the car was gone – and his 4-year-old son along with it.
An Amber Alert was issued and the hunt began, the mother going on television to plead with the car thief not to harm her son and she wouldn’t press charges. Luckily, the boy was found unharmed a few hours later.
The truth is that even if this boy hadn’t been in the vehicle when it was stolen, stealing a car can lead to significant penalties under Illinois law. Here’s what you need to know about the laws surrounding car theft in Illinois as well as the penalties that can result.
What is Motor Vehicle Theft in Illinois?
Under Illinois law, motor vehicle theft is defined as knowingly obtaining control over or taking someone else’s property without their authorization or by deception, threat, or stealing. The intent must be to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
So, stealing a vehicle without the intention of ever returning is, by definition, motor vehicle theft, but so is deceiving someone to give their property up.
No matter how you get there, if the intent was to deny the owner of the property that belongs to them, then it’s theft.
Illinois Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft
The penalties associated with motor vehicle theft in Illinois depend on the value of the vehicle that was taken and the events surrounding the crime.
Class A Misdemeanor
This is charged if the value of the vehicle is less than $500. Under Illinois law, this is the most serious level of misdemeanor and can lead to up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
Class 3 Felony
This is charged when the vehicle is valued at more than $500 but less than $10,000. It is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of $25,000.
Class 2 Felony
You may be charged with a Class 2 felony if the vehicle is valued at more than $10,000 but less than $100,000. It is punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of $25,000.
It’s important to note that there are enhanced penalties that can tack years onto a sentence in certain circumstances.
From the story of the little boy taken along with the vehicle, it’s possible the thief could face additional prison time for kidnapping or vehicular hijacking with a passenger younger than 16 present, a Class X felony, which could end in $25,000 fines and 30 more years behind bars.
Even if no children are involved, however, you can still get a sentence enhancement if you steal a vehicle owned by the government or the victim is over the age of 60. If you have prior convictions for theft, you may face harsher penalties as well.
As you can see, stealing a car often isn’t simply stealing a car – it involves many subtle factors that can leave you facing a harsh prison sentence. That’s why it’s crucial to understand your rights and what you could be facing if charged with these crimes.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.