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Dec. 1 2016

Do You Literally HAVE to Steal? Kleptomania and Other Theft Defenses

Posted By: Sami Azhari

Literally Have to Steal - Kleptomania and Other Theft Defenses

Let’s face it: everyone has had the temptation to steal from time to time. Maybe you were eyeing a sought-after item that you couldn’t afford. Or your friends were pressuring you to steal and “be cool.” Or you were seeking a thrill. Maybe you really, truly needed the item.

Whatever the situation, the temptation of shoplifting is familiar to many people. Maybe you’ve even stolen an item or two and it was no big deal. It was an unfortunate phase, but one that you grew out of.

Some people aren’t quite so lucky, though.

Perhaps you’ve heard friends call someone who steals a lot a “klepto,” or watched TV shows where someone was jokingly labeled a “kleptomaniac.” Well, it’s no joke. For the people out there who suffer from the disorder, kleptomania is very, very real, and it can negatively impact their entire lives.

The Science (and Sadness) of Kleptomania

Rolling Meadows Theft Lawyer

Kleptomania has been a medical diagnosis since the 1800s. It is given to people who find themselves faced with an uncontrollable urge to steal things, whether it is from retail locations, a friend’s home, or wherever.

For people with kleptomania, stealing releases tension that is built up before the act. This relief and the good feelings associated with it can get addictive, making stealing an incredibly difficult habit to break.

Of course, not everyone who habitually steals can be considered a kleptomaniac. Some signs that your stealing habits are due to kleptomania include:

  • You do not need the things that you steal. You may also be able to afford the items that you shoplift. Rather than needing the items, you steal because you want to satisfy an emotional need. Hoarding stolen items may also be a sign of kleptomania or other impulse disorders.
  • Thefts Are Not Planned. Kleptomaniacs can typically restrain themselves in the presence of police officers or authorities who can catch them stealing, but these thefts are also not planned in advance.

Additionally, kleptomania is commonly seen in people who suffer from depression, as well as similar impulse disorders. It is not a curable disorder, but it is treatable. Specifically, counseling and therapy sessions can help reduce the urge to steal and increase a kleptomaniac’s self-control in the event that they get the urge to steal.

Kleptomania and Other Defenses against Retail Theft Charges

Theft Defense Attorney Skokie IL

No matter why you are stealing, what you are stealing, or what store you are stealing it from, it’s still a crime. In fact, in Illinois stealing only $300 worth of merchandise is grounds for a felony charge, which means shoplifting has some serious consequences.

Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that you take your charges seriously and work with an experienced professional to put together a strong defense strategy. 

If you think you may have kleptomania, your condition could keep you out of jail. Somewhat similar to an “insanity” defense, telling the judge of your disorder may result in a mitigated sentence that involves treatment or therapy instead of jail time, or your charges might even be dropped altogether.

Do not attempt to use this defense, however, unless you have good evidence to back up your claims. Before your trial, visit a therapist or counselor and discuss your possible issues with kleptomania. If you are diagnosed with kleptomania, you can use your diagnosis as solid evidence in court.

Of course, being a kleptomaniac isn’t the only possible defense. There are several other defense strategies that could potentially help with your theft charges, including:

Arguing against intent: Shoplifting in Illinois is comprised of a few different actions (altering or removing price labels, concealing items, unlawfully using theft detection tools, and so on) but they all have one thing in common: the intention to permanently deprive a retail location of the merchandise or its full value.

Intent, however, can be hard to prove, especially if you were arrested without leaving the store. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty; negating the evidence that you had the intentions of stealing can get your charges dropped.

Challenging Witnesses: Some cases are won by chipping away at smaller pieces of evidence, like witness testimonies. A witness may have been mistaken when they initially testified against you at the scene of the crime, and your lawyer may be able to challenge this testimony and negate this evidence.

Unlawful Arrest: At some point during your detainment and arrest, officials may have been acting outside of their duties or in an unlawful manner. If this is the case, your defense lawyer can file a motion and ask for your charges to be dropped.

Know your rights when being detained and dealing with police. If corners were cut or your rights were violated in any way, be sure to tell your attorney so they can decide how best to proceed.

For more information on using kleptomania or any of the above strategies to fight against your shoplifting charges, contact an Illinois shoplifting lawyer immediately.

About the Author:

Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.