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What are the differences between theft, robbery and burglary?

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program provides an easy framework for discussing different types of crime. The UCR program assigns each type of crime to one of three categories: crimes against property, crimes against the person and crimes against society. For example, arson is a crime against property, while kidnapping is a crime against the person. Drug crimes and weapons violations are counted as crimes against society.

Theft, robbery and burglary all involve the wrongful taking of someone else's property, so they are crimes against property. This is true even if the victim reports being threatened or intimidated during the crime.

Illinois statute defines theft in a number of ways that fall into two basic categories: theft of property not from the person and theft of property from the person. Generally, theft from the person is a more serious crime and is prosecuted as a felony. Taking property not from the person is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property and the circumstances of the theft.

You may be charged with theft if you obtain control over someone else's property without that person's permission. Obtaining that property by deceiving or threatening the owner also qualifies as theft, as does obtaining stolen property with the knowledge that it has been stolen or under circumstances that would indicate to a reasonable person that the property was stolen.

Taking your own property may or may not be a crime, again depending on the circumstances. A co-owner of property commits theft by depriving another co-owner of the property. Say you and your brother buy a table saw. Your brother cannot move the saw to his own shop and prohibit you from using it.

Finally, it is not a theft crime to take a spouse's property as long as you are living together at the time of the taking. If, however, you and your spouse were living apart, in separate houses, your spouse commits theft when he or she removes the table saw from your house without your permission.

We'll continue with burglary and robbery in our next post.

Source: West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, Chapter 720 § 5/16-1

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