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Best Tips and Strategies for Fighting Burglary in IL

A team of lawyers and legal advisors working together

Residential burglary is a Class 1 felony under Illinois law. The punishment for a Class 1 felony is four to 15 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. If you are facing residential burglary charges, it is vital to get a zealous and experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer in your corner as soon as possible to start building your defense. Below, we discuss the crime of residential burglary and some of the more common ways in which we fight burglary charges in the State of Illinois.

The Legal Definition of Residential Burglary

Burglary is a very specific crime. A burglary conviction requires proving more than that the defendant stole something from someone else’s property. Under Illinois law, a person is guilty of residential burglary when they:

  • knowingly
  • without authority
  • enter or remain within the dwelling place of another, or any part thereof
  • with the intent to commit therein a felony or theft

A person must therefore enter a property unlawfully (or remain unlawfully, such as by hiding after entering), knowing that they are not authorized to enter, and have the specific intention of committing a felony or a theft. The felony could be committing arson, assaulting the residents, damaging property to the level of a felony, or some other act, although burglary with the intent to commit theft is a more common charge.

Common Defenses to Burglary Charges

Successfully fighting burglary charges in Illinois requires undermining the prosecution’s ability to prove one of the key elements of the crime. Some of the most common strategies to undercut a burglary case include:

  • Lack of Evidence. The prosecution must demonstrate each element of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, by way of concrete evidence. If evidence is lacking for any given element, then the charge cannot stand. If any of the evidence used is faulty, for example, if it was obtained by the police through an illegal search and seizure, then that evidence cannot form the basis of a criminal conviction.
  • Alibi. Proving that you could not have been the person to commit the burglary is likely the strongest way to defeat burglary charges. Find out when and where the burglary occurred and put together a list of places where you were during that period. The more witnesses you can find who can attest to the fact that you were somewhere besides the site of the burglary at the time it occurred, the better.
  • Authorized Entry. Burglary requires the defendant to have entered the property without permission. If the defendant can show that they were authorized to enter the property, or that they had a reasonable belief that they had permission to enter, then they are not guilty of burglary. Even if the defendant is guilty of theft (stealing something from a place in which they were allowed to be), they may not be guilty of burglary. Theft generally carries a lesser punishment, unless the value of the property taken was very high.
  • Lack of Intent. A burglary conviction requires showing that the defendant unlawfully entered the property with the intent to commit theft. If you admittedly entered someone’s property without their permission but never intended to commit theft, then you are guilty of trespassing at worst. Trespassing is a misdemeanor, while burglary is a felony. You may even be able to undermine proof of intent by demonstrating that you were intoxicated at the time of entry and were thus incapable of intending to commit a crime.


If you or someone you know are facing criminal charges in Illinois, protect your future and your family by seeking representation from seasoned and passionate Chicagoland criminal defense lawyers. Contact the Carol Stream offices of Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600.

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