Being charged and convicted of retail theft, commonly known as shoplifting, has serious implications for your future in the state of Illinois. Some people are under the impression that resolving shoplifting charges is as simple as paying for the objects that were stolen and moving on. But this isn't the case. Retail theft can possibly be charged as a felony depending on the circumstances.
If you reside in Illinois and have been arrested for retail theft, contact Dolci & Weiland for help to fight any criminal charges. Our team of criminal defense attorneys are passionate about protecting the rights of our clients and fiercely defending their charges. We believe a well-informed client is a successful client. This is why we make it our duty to answer all of your questions, provide you with options, and make ourselves accessible to you at any time to ensure you have the best defense on your side.
What Constitutes Retail Theft in Illinois?
According to Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/16-25, there are a number of actions that fall under the umbrella of retail theft. The state specifically lays out situations that constitute retail theft. They include:
- Taking an item without paying for it: if a person knowingly transfers, possesses, carries away, or promotes the carrying away of any item from a retail establishment without paying the value marked by a merchant, and with the intent to permanently deprive the merchant of said item, they can be charged with retail theft.
- Using a device to disarm or jam security alarms: if a person utilizes a mechanism to block or disarm a security device to take an item past a scanning device, they can be charged with this crime.
- Altering an item's price tag or bar code: changing, altering, or removing a price tag or bar code with the intention of paying less for the product than its set value is against the law.
- Refusing to return leased property: If you have leased an item and fail to return within 10 days per the request of a merchant, then it is considered retail theft.
- Exiting through an emergency door: believe it or not, leaving through the emergency exit of a retailer after stealing merchandise is one of the most serious forms of retail theft.
Retail Theft Penalties in Illinois
Retail theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. The legal repercussions vary depending on the circumstances of your case. As with other theft crimes, the penalties for identity theft get more severe as the value of the items stolen increases. The range of penalties are as follows:
If the item(s) stolen were valued at $300 or less, then this form of retail theft is a Class A misdemeanor. It's punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
If the stolen merchandise has a value greater than $300, then the defendant may be charged with a Class 4 felony. This form of retail theft carries penalties of one to three years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.
If it is proven that a defendant stole merchandise and left through an emergency exit, then it is a Class 4 felony, regardless of the value of the item(s) stolen. If this is a subsequent theft crime, then a defendant may be charged with a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by two to five years in prison.
It's important to note that additional civil penalties may be imposed upon someone suspected of retail theft. Whether said person pays the civil penalty or not will have no bearing on their case.
The most damaging aspect of a retail theft conviction is that once it is on your record, it can't be expunged or sealed. This is why it's important to find a seasoned criminal defense attorney to vehemently fight this charge to prevent a conviction.
Potential Defenses for Retail Theft Charges
An Illinois criminal defense attorney has the expertise and knowledge to utilize several potential defenses to reduce the severity of your sentence. In some cases, a legal defense may be so convincing that it causes your charges to be dropped altogether. There are several possible defenses that are used in retail theft cases. They include:
There's no criminal intent. When pursuing retail theft charges, prosecutors have the burden of proving the defendant had intentions of stealing the merchandise without paying for it. If an attorney can present evidence that proves you did not intend to steal what you were accused of, you may not be convicted of retail theft.
The witnesses are unreliable. Merchants and bystanders can be unreliable when accurately determining if a defendant is trying to shoplift. It isn't uncommon for these parties to confuse the sequence of events in their minds or even mistake the defendant for somebody else.
Charged With Theft in Illinois? We Can Help You
Now that you know what you're up against, you can begin to make decisions that will affect the outcome of your trial. The most important decision you can make in this predicament is to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney and secure representation. You should never defend yourself in any case, and you won't have to with the legal team at Dolci & Weiland on your side.
Time is of the essence in criminal defense cases. It is best to obtain representation upon immediate notice of your charges. To speak with a member of our team, fill out an online case evaluation form or give us a ring at the office closest to you today. The number for our downtown Chicago location is 312-238-9007, for our DuPage office, call 630-261-9098.