Illinois Burglary: Proof of Intent to Steal

by John D. Ioakimidis, Esq,

In a recent Illinois appellate case, the court considered a burglary conviction. The defendant was sentenced to an eight-year Class X sentence due to his criminal record. On appeal, he argued that he wasn’t proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because the prosecution hadn’t established that he was not allowed to be in the building or that he planned to steal.

The case arose when a university employee who worked in the telephone operating department came to work early one morning. She worked in a building that had telecommunications equipment and was only accessible by using a key or key card. She used her key card to go inside the building, and only two other employees were there. Almost two hours after arriving, she saw on the video security monitor that the defendant was in the basement hallway. She knew he wasn’t an employee. He was checking to see if doorknobs were open and looking at equipment in boxes.

The employee asked a coworker to call the police, and she kept watching the monitor. The defendant disappeared from the monitor and then appeared on the other side of the divider from the employee. The employee told him to leave and asked what he was doing there. He said he was just looking. However, surveillance later showed that he’d been in the garage looking into the windows of different cars.

A police officer arrived and saw the defendant, who he could tell wasn’t a university employee. As the defendant came toward him, the cop took him into custody and asked why he was in the basement. The defendant said he was searching for something. The cop found a white box full of cable wire that the employee had seen the defendant moving.

The defendant was charged and convicted of burglary. The lower court found that the video surveillance was persuasive to show the defendant wasn’t lost or looking for an exit. It also found that nothing showed how he had entered the building, but the video made it clear he was looking for things.

On appeal, the defendant argued the prosecution didn’t meet its burden of proof. He argued that the prosecution hadn’t shown that he had no right to be in the building or that he planned to steal. The appellate court explained that to establish burglary under 720 ILCS 5/19-1(a), the prosecution was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had knowingly come inside a building or stayed there with the intent to commit a theft or felony. It reasoned that a burglary happened as soon as there was an unauthorized entry with the proper intent, even if the theft or felony was not perpetrated. Intent can be inferred from the defendant’s actions.

The appellate court found there was enough evidence to find the defendant guilty of burglary, since the evidence showed the defendant was not a university employee, entry into the building had to be accomplished by key card and was limited to employees, he was in the building on a Sunday, and he was seen moving boxes and trying to open doors. The inference that the defendant intended to steal was a rational one. His burglary conviction was affirmed.

John Ioakimidis is an award-winning Chicago attorney and author with more than 22 years of experience. If you are charged with burglary in Illinois, contact me in Cook (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096), or Lake (847-696-6458) County for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

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