Shoplifting is often seen as a small crime, but a shoplifting accusation can have big consequences. For that reason, it’s important to understand the shoplifting laws here in Illinois and to know your rights if you’re facing a shoplifting allegation.
What Is Shoplifting in Illinois?
Shoplifting – also known as retail theft – involves a number of actions beyond just slipping a pair of sunglasses into your bag.
According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes, someone commits retail theft when he or she knowingly:
- Takes possession of, carries away, or transfers any merchandise in a retail store with the intention of keeping the merchandise or permanently depriving the merchant of the use or benefit of the merchandise without paying the full retail value; or
- Alters, switches, or removes any label, price tag, marking, etc. which determines the value of the merchandise and attempts to purchase the merchandise at a price lower than the full retail value; or
- Transfers any merchandise from one container or package to another with the intent of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise; or
- Under-rings (a cashier ringing an item for a lower price) with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value; or
- Removes a shopping cart from the merchant’s premises without their consent; or
- Lies to a merchant claiming to be the owner of property in order to get money, store credit, or other property; or
- Uses or possesses any theft detection shielding device or theft detection device remover with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the item’s use or benefit without paying the full retail price.
There is also “theft by emergency exit,” when a person commits a retail theft as defined above and leaves the retail establishment by using an emergency exit in order to get away with the theft.
Illinois Shoplifting Punishments
If you are accused of shoplifting you can potentially be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the type of retail theft and the value of the stolen property.
If the value of the stolen property doesn’t exceed $300 (or doesn’t exceed $150 for motor fuel), you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail.
If you are caught using a theft detection shielding device or theft detection device remover, you will face a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class 4 felony (punishable by one to three years in jail) for a second offense.
Theft by emergency exit is a Class 4 felony as well if the value of the stolen property doesn’t exceed $300.
If you are caught shoplifting and have previously been convicted of “any type of theft, robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, home invasion, unlawful use of a credit card, or forgery,” you will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
If the value of the stolen property exceeds $300 (or $150 for motor fuel) in a single transaction, or in separate transactions committed by the same person over a period of one year, you will face a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail.
What Are My Rights When It Comes to Shoplifting Allegations?
You’ve seen enough movies and TV shows to know that if you ever find yourself under arrest, you have certain rights known as Miranda rights:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
Even though a security guard for a retail shop doesn’t have to read you these rights, they are still yours to exercise. So if you’re being detained on suspicion of shoplifting, you can choose to remain silent and ask for a lawyer if you want to protect yourself.
Also, it’s important to know how much authority a security guard actually has. Like police officers, security guards need to have probable cause to detain someone. However, like police officers, it’s up to the individual security guard to determine what is and is not probable cause.
Don’t let a shoplifting accusation – no matter how small or petty – put a mark on your name or criminal record. Reach out to an experienced Illinois retail theft attorney today to discuss your case and defend your rights.
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.