What is the Difference Between Theft, Burglary, and Robbery in Illinois?

While commonly used interchangeably, theft, burglary, and robbery are actually completely separate crimes under Illinois law. To understand and appreciate the subtle differences between these criminal offenses, the following sections will explore relevant laws and penalties under Illinois state law. 


Illinois laws against and penalties for theft crimes appear under 720 ILCS 5/16-1. A person commits theft under this section if they obtain control over another person’s property:

    Without authorization; Using deception; Employing threats; Knowing, or having a reason to know, that the property was stolen or likely stolen; or That is in the custody of law enforcement or a similar agency. 

The penalty for this offense changes based on the type of theft in question. For example, theft of items worth less than $500 that occurs:

    From the Person — Results in Class A misdemeanor charges, which are punishable by a maximum of 364 days

Analyzing Three Kinds of Robbery Crimes Under Illinois Law

The Illinois Criminal Code includes prohibitions against many types of theft crimes, including three kinds of robbery. In all respects, robbery must involve the use of force or the imminent threat of force. Though the corresponding penalties fluctuate based on whether the offender committed robbery, aggravated robbery, or armed robbery.


720 ILCS 5/18-1 establishes the Illinois laws against and penalties for robbery. Under Illinois law, a person commits robbery if they knowingly take property:

    From the person or presence of the victim; and Using force or the imminent threat of force. 

There is an exception to robbery laws. Section 18-1 does not apply to the theft of motor vehicles. Theft crimes involving motor vehicles are governed by separate sections of the Illinois Criminal Code. 

Under Section 18-1, robbery is typically a Class 2 felony. If convicted for this class of felony, the offender can face [...]

Examining the Illinois Difference Between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery

Under Illinois law, robbery is a theft crime that involves force or the threat of force. Without the presence of threatened or actual force, it does not qualify as robbery in Illinois. For more serious offenses, the perpetrator could face charges for aggravated robbery instead. To understand the difference between these two criminal offenses, it will be helpful to review important definitions and penalties under Illinois law.

What Qualifies as Robbery in Illinois?

720 ILCS 5/18-1 provides the definition of robbery in Illinois. Under this section, a person commits robbery when he or she:

    Intentionally takes someone else’s property; From the person or presence of the owner; and Using force or the threat of force.

There is an important exception under Section 18-1. It does not qualify as robbery when a person steals a motor vehicle. Illinois has separate laws governing the theft of motor vehicles, which qualifies as either [...]

Burglary vs. Residential Burglary in Illinois

The State of Illinois prohibits any person from stealing property or other valuable items under the general umbrella of theft crimes. Within that umbrella, Illinois also has specific types of theft, including but not limited to burglary and residential burglary.

What is the Illinois Definition of Burglary?

The Illinois definition of burglary appears under 720 ILCS 5/19-1. There are two elements to this offense under Illinois law. To commit burglary a person must:

    Enter or remain in a specific type of structure or vehicle, intentionally and without legal authority; and Have the intent to commit theft or other felony crimes.

720 ILCS 5/19-1 includes the following types of structures and vehicles in the definition of burglary:

    Aircraft; Buildings; House-trailers; Motor vehicles; Railroad cars; or Watercraft.

What are the Illinois Penalties for Burglary?

The Illinois penalties for burglary also appear under 720 ILCS 5/19-1. It is a Class 3 [...]