Theft is a common criminal offense, but one that can have major legal ramifications. That said, some theft crimes are more serious than others. Minor details (like which exit you use if you shoplift) can have a huge effect on the legal consequences you could face.
Like many states, Illinois theft crimes are charged and penalized based on the value of the allegedly stolen property. Unlike some states, Illinois distinguishes shoplifting from other forms of theft, and the crime carries its own set of penalties.
This matters for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is the fact that our state has a felony theft threshold (the monetary value of items stolen at which a theft goes from being a misdemeanor to a felony) for both general theft crimes and shoplifting – and they’re both different.
In this post, we’re going to review the felony thresholds for both theft and shoplifting, as well as the charges and penalties associated with each.
Illinois Theft Laws
Illinois defines theft as occurring any time a defendant’s actions intentionally result in the unauthorized taking of property, services, or anything else of value. Knowingly obtaining stolen property is also charged as theft. Below are some of the most common theft offenses in Illinois:
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
This charge applies if the value of the stolen property is $500 or less, so long as the property is not taken directly from the owner. This is punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Class 4 Felony Theft
This charge applies if the value of stolen property is $500 or less, and the theft was committed in a school or place of worship. This charge also applies when the defendant has prior theft convictions. Convicted parties face 1-3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Class 3 Felony Theft
When a theft of property is valued between $500-$10,000, or when the theft of property is valued under $500, but taken directly from another person, it is charged as a Class 3 Felony, punishable by 2-5 years imprisonment and a $25,000 maximum fine.
Illinois Shoplifting Laws
Shoplifting, on the other hand, refers specifically to the taking, possessing, transferring, or carrying away of any retail merchandise with the intent to permanently deprive the merchant of its full retail value.
You could also face Illinois shoplifting charges if you paid for the merchandise, but intentionally did not pay the full value by switching price tags or packaging, for example.
Here’s how the most common charges are penalized:
A first offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Note, subsequent shoplifting offenses under $300 are bumped up to Class 4 Felony charges, which can land you 1-3 years prison time and up to $25,000 in fines.
Under $300 and involves an emergency exit
If the value of the merchandise is under $300, but the defendant used an emergency exit to leave the property, this is a Class 4 Felony and is punishable by 1-3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
When you steal retail property valued over $300, it is automatically a Class 3 Felony, and typically carries a sentence of 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Over $3,000 and involves an emergency exit
This is a Class 2 Felony and is punishable by 3-7 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
The most important thing to note is that when you steal from a retailer, the value of the property only needs to be $300 in order to reach the felony threshold. Stolen personal property must be over $500 in value before the theft is considered felonious.
These kinds of nuances are why it’s so important to know the laws surrounding theft and shoplifting, and to proactively fight back to beat any charges against you.
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.