Theft in the State of Illinois is prosecuted as petty or grand theft, as a misdemeanor or felony, and the statute of limitations changes based on these variables. The terms theft, larceny, and various types of theft used to define the thief's actions can also affect the statute of limitations for the crime.
Statutes of Limitations
A statute of limitations is "a type of federal or state law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought," according to The Free Dictionary's Legal Dictionary by Farlex. Most states, including Illinois, have a statute of limitations on all crimes but murder. In most instances, the statute of limitations is measured from the time the act was committed, although in some types of theft cases the statute of limitations is measured from the time the crime was discovered, within certain limits.
Defining Theft and Larceny
Theft is usually defined as the unlawful taking of another person’s property without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the victim of the property. Larceny, a related term, deals with particular theft crimes such as robbery, fraud and embezzlement. Theft crimes can be prosecuted in two ways: as misdemeanors, known as petty theft, which carry sentences measured in months rather than years, or as felonies, known as grand theft, which carry sentences upwards of one year and one day in jail.
Determining Statutes of Limitations in Illinois
According to Ramsell and Associates, L.L.C.'s "Illinois Felony Theft Defense" page, types of theft that can be prosecuted as felony theft are: "retail theft valued at more than $300; possession of large amounts of stolen property; car theft; credit card theft; armed robbery; felony larceny; fraud; [and] embezzlement." If the theft crime is designated a felony, the statute of limitations as of the time of publication is three years. If the theft crime does not fall into one of these categories and is designated a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations during which the crime can be prosecuted is one year. There are extended limitations for some circumstances, for example when a party was a minor or disabled, or in circumstances where the crime was not immediately discovered. In these cases, it is best to contact a lawyer to help determine whether your case is still within its statute of limitations.
Whether you have been the victim of a theft or are about to be prosecuted for theft, there are resources available to you. You can research your situation online, and find online support groups and resources to help you. There are free and reduced-fee legal aid options available if paying for legal help is a concern.