Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"I DIDN'T STEAL IT!": PROVING BURGLARY IN ILLINOIS

You bought a couple I-phones from an acquaintance. You thought they were his, but it turned out he had recently stolen them from a store and then he disappeared. Now the police have charged you with the burglary.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

The crime of burglary in Illinois involves stealing from a place. (720 ILCS 5/19-1.) If you knowingly enter or remain in a building without permission with the intent to commit a felony or theft, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison. If the building was a day care, school or church, your charges can be upgraded to Aggravated Burglary, a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

But you didn’t steal the phones and you were never in the store. Can they still convict you? As with most other crimes, the state must prove you guilty of every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact you have the recently stolen I-phones may not be enough to convict you of their burglary unless 1) there is a rational connection between your possession of the stolen property and your participation in a burglary, 2) your guilt of the burglary more likely than not flowed from your recent, unexplained and exclusive possession of the proceeds, and 3) there was corroborating evidence of your guilt.

In a recent Illinois Appellate case, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction because the evidence was insufficient to infer that the defendant had committed the burglary based on his unexplained and exclusive possession of some auto parts. The prosecution could not prove that the items the defendant possessed were the same as the recently stolen parts or that he even entered the store where they had been taken. (See People v Terrance Smith.)

If you are charged with burglary or a related crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the evidence for weaknesses in the state’s case and help you put on the best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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