Northbrook Shoplifting: A Serious Crime with Severe Consequences
Shoplifting is often seen as a minor crime. Something that mostly juveniles get up to. This is especially true in the idyllic settings of quiet villages like Northbrook. Unfortunately, when shopkeepers decide to pursue the matter, a shoplifting charge can become a serious problem with long-term implications for anyone convicted.
Shoplifting is officially known as “Retail Theft” under Illinois law. Retail theft occurs when an individual knowingly attempts to deprive a merchant of the full value of their merchandise. Beyond simply pocketing an item and walking out, this could involve a number of additional actions, such as swapping tags on merchandise, cutting off anti-theft devices, or making a false return of an item.
Unlike many states that have blanket laws for all theft, Illinois has specific criminal codes related to shoplifting. The severity of a shoplifting charge typically depends on the value of the merchandise, and retail theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Because of this, those convicted of shoplifting may face heavy fines, incarceration, and the surprising difficulty of trying to get ahead in our society with the stain of a criminal record.
Sami Azhari can help you to avoid this fate. An experienced Chicago-area criminal attorney, Mr. Azhari has assisted countless people in Northbrook and beyond to fight back against their charges and get them dismissed or reduced. He understands how the theft laws in our state work, and what you need to show to have the best chance at beating your charges.
What Does It Mean to Commit Retail Theft in Illinois?
Retail theft encompasses a variety of methods of theft. Actions that fall under retail theft in Northbrook include:
- Removing or causing the removal of merchandise with the intent to deprive the retailer of its full value
- Use of merchandise without paying
- Altering price tags with the intent to deprive the retailer of the full value of merchandise
- Ringing-up merchandise below its stated value
- Transfering items to different boxes or containers with the intent to deprive the retailer of their full value
- Taking a shopping cart from a merchant without the intent to return it
- Misrepresenting ownership of merchandise to staff, including falsely returning items
- Possession or use of anti-theft technology shielding devices
Intent to commit theft can be assumed when an individual conceals merchandise and takes it past the point of last purchase in the retail store. The offender does not have to exit the store completely to be charged with shoplifting.
Penalties for Northbrook Retail Theft
Under Illinois state law, shoplifting charges and their potential penalties vary depending on the value of the merchandise. The circumstances surrounding the alleged theft may also play a role. For example, shoplifting and leaving the store through an emergency exit can result in a separate charge with much higher penalties.
For merchandise with a total value under $300, retail theft is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines. Retail theft of merchandise over $300 as a Class 3 felony offense, which can carry up to 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines if convicted.
If alleged retail theft involves emergency exit of property, it constitutes a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3-7 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Prior convictions of shoplifting or other theft crimes — such as burglary, robbery, or auto theft may also make the charge more severe.
Value of the stolen items may be calculated over a single incident or several different instances. For example, if a Northbrook store’s security camera records you committing several different thefts over multiple visits, you may be charged based on the sum total of all the stolen merchandise.
Civil Consequences You Can Face for Illinois Shoplifting
In addition to the criminal penalties mentioned above, retail theft may also be accompanied by civil suits. Retailers are entitled by law to sue offenders in the civil court to recuperate shoplifting losses.
Some of the damages retailers can seek include:
- The retail value of merchandise
- A penalty between $100 and $1,000
- Attorney and court fees
Those accused of shoplifting may receive demand letters from the retailer, requesting a sum of money associated with the stolen merchandise. You are not necessarily obliged to pay this requested amount before a civil trial is conducted. You should show these letters to your attorney before taking any steps.
A Skilled Northbrook Criminal Defense Lawyer Knows How to Defend against Retail Theft Charges
Though shoplifting is a common crime, as mentioned above, the penalties and other consequences of shoplifting charges should be taken seriously. A conviction can not only result in possible fines and incarceration — it will leave a blemish on your criminal record and make finding future employment very difficult.
However, a shoplifting charge is not a conviction. A skilled Northbrook attorney can defend you against retail theft charges, increasing your chances of getting penalties significantly lessened — or even dropped altogether.
If you’ve been caught in the act of shoplifting, avoiding conviction may be difficult if the retailer decides to press charges. However, there are a handful of mitigating circumstances around which a successful defense can be built.
- Lack of intent. A defendant may allege that they left the store without paying for merchandise by accident, and a case may be built around the absence of intent to shoplift.
- Mistaken ownership. The defense may argue a case of mistaken ownership. For example, you may claim to have mistaken a store’s item for a similar item you had on your person.
- Intoxication/Impairment. If the defendant was intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, or suffering from a mental health episode, their defense may be built around a lack of awareness of the crime they were committing.
- Entrapment. A claim of entrapment asserts that you were induced into committing a crime by another party. Your defense may argue you were lured into commiting the crime by someone with the intent of getting you arrested.
A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to reduce the penalties of a shoplifting charge as well.
For example, first-time offenders may be eligible to have criminal charges dropped after successful completion of a rehabilitation and restitution program. In lieu of pleading guilty or no contest, the defendant agrees to attend and complete these programs, as well as pay any requisite fines. Upon meeting this criteria, the charges will be dropped.
Another possibility is striking a plea deal for reduced charges. If you agree with your attorney that this is the best course of action, he or she might attempt to negotiate with the prosecution for a more minor charge with less severe penalties.
Start Building Your Defense against Northbrook Shoplifting Charges Immediately
If you’ve been charged with shoplifting, it is imperative to seek the counsel of an experienced Northbrook criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction could have serious implications, including a criminal record, fines, and even incarceration.
Sami Azhari offers a free consultation for individuals accused of retail or other theft crimes. Contact him directly via email at email@example.com or complete an online case evaluation form. Alternatively, you can reach one of our three area offices:
Skokie – (847) 655-1702
Rolling Meadows – (847) 255-2100
Chicago – (312) 626-2871