Articles Posted in Burglary

An Evanston man was arrested and charged with burglary for allegedly breaking into three Elgin gas stations last month and stealing cash and Illinois state lottery tickets.

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Illinois Burglary Requires Intent to Steal

Under Illinois law a person commits the crime of burglary if:

  • He knowingly enters a building;
  • The entry is without permission, and;
  • His entry is with the intent to steal or commit a felony.

Burglary is a specific intent crime, which means the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly entered the premises without permission, and that he intended to steal once he was inside. This definition raises an interesting point about burglary that many people do not realize – it is possible to illegally enter a building without permission, steal something, and yet not be charged with burglary. How? It all depends on when the intent to steal was formed.

Here is an example. It’s freezing on the streets of Chicago, and a homeless man is looking for a warm place to spend the night. He breaks the window of a doctor’s office so he can sleep on the couches in reception. That is his only purpose in entering the office – to get a good night’s sleep in a warm place. At this point, he has fulfilled the first two elements of the burglary charge.

When he awakes in the morning, he notices an open drawer. Upon further inspection, he sees an envelope containing petty cash. He decides to take it, along with some drugs that were unlocked in a cabinet. Although he intended to steal from the doctor’s office when he took the money and the drugs, the man did not commit burglary. That is because his intent to steal was not present the moment he illegally entered the office, but was formed later. The intent to steal must be present when the person illegally enters a building.

Now this does not mean the man cannot be charged with a crime. He could be charged with trespass and theft, but not burglary. The distinction is significant, because burglary is a felony, whereas depending on the value of the items stolen, the theft may only be a misdemeanor, which means a much shorter prison sentence, if convicted.

Chicago Burglary Defense

In any case of burglary, the first line of defense would be to argue that it was not the defendant who broke into the gas stations. The article states that police linked him to the crimes through stolen lottery tickets. Assuming that they do not have images of him on video surveillance, then the only evidence linking him to the crime is the stolen lottery tickets. Possession of the lottery tickets in and of itself is not proof that he was the one who illegally entered the gas stations and stole the tickets. He may have received them from a friend after the fact, or he could have found them all discarded in a dumpster after the real thief tried to dump them. Regardless, even if he knew, or should have known, they were stolen, this does not make him guilty of burglary.

The second line of defense, as discussed above, would be to prove that the defendant did not have the intent to steal when he entered the premises. If it can be proven that he entered for any non-criminal purpose, and decided to steal only later, as discussed above he could not be charged with burglary.

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A DuPage County couple was arrested and charged in early December with two counts each of burglary, and additional counts of retail theft, for allegedly stealing and selling more than $4,000 worth of merchandise from a string of DuPage County Walmart stores. The charges are Class 2 and Class 3 felonies, respectively. Police allege the couple stole and later sold the items to feed their drug addiction.

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DuPage County Commercial Burglary Charge

In Illinois, burglary is committed when a person knowingly and without authority enters, or knowingly and without authority remains, within a building with the intent to commit theft or another felony within the building. Although most people consider burglary to be entering a residence with the intent to steal, a person can be charged with burglary if he enters a building with the intent to kill, rape, or commit any other felony.

An unidentified person allegedly stole jewelry from inside a home during a Skokie estate sale last week. The case is interesting because it raises a number of different issues that the prosecution will need to overcome if an arrest is made and charges filed, as well as many possible defense strategies to explore.

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At the outset, the prosecution faces an uphill battle in obtaining a positive identification of the alleged thief. In reference to the estate sale, individuals were no doubt going in and out of the home. Any forensic evidence found at the scene – such as fingerprints, clothing fibers, or other DNA evidence – cannot provide a smoking gun. Here, the suspect was “invited” into the home for purposes of the sale. Absent any forensic evidence tying the suspect to the scene, an eyewitness identification is strongly in doubt. With the family talking to dozens of people while trying to make sales, without any distinguishing characteristics on the suspect’s part, it will be difficult for eyewitnesses to testify with certainty that the suspect was present in the home.

Even if caught – for example, if a local pawn shop reports purchasing the stolen jewelry – it is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was the person who stole the jewelry. Without a positive identification or any forensic evidence tying him to the scene, there are any number of possible reasons the suspect could have come into possession of the jewelry. He could have purchased it from a different pawn shop, received it as a gift, or even found it discarded in a trash can or on the side of the road.

Skokie Defense of Theft

From the defense side, there are several issues to explore regarding the estate sale itself that could help cast doubt on the suspect’s guilt:

  • Was there a “free” table at the sale? If there was, it raises the possibility that another attendee, or even a family member, mistakenly laid the jewelry on that table, leading the suspect to believe it was free for the taking;
  • How many people were in charge of handling transactions? If there was more than one person handling sales, it is possible that the suspect actually paid for the item. Lack of communication between salespeople could cause the sale to not be properly recorded, thus leading to a misunderstanding that the item was stolen;
  • Do any of the people running the estate sale carry a criminal history of theft or similar crimes themselves? It is possible one of the salespeople simply pocketed the money from the sale and reported it as stolen to cover his tracks;
  • Is there animosity among the family members set to inherit the estate? Proceeds from the estate sale are deposited into the estate and used to pay estate bills before they are ultimately distributed to the heirs. If there was a disagreement amongst family members as to who should receive the allegedly stolen piece of jewelry, a decision of the majority of the heirs would win. A disgruntled family member who wanted the jewelry may have pocketed it and concocted the theft story to deflect blame.

Each of these scenarios would cast serious doubt on the defendant’s guilt, and are all avenues that David L. Freidberg would explore in working to get the charges dropped or the case dismissed.  Continue reading