Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Defending Clients against Retail Theft/Shoplifting Charges
Shoplifting often seems like a petty crime for which the punishments can be minor, but that is not always the case. For instance, someone walking into a retail store and trying to walk out with an item that they have not paid for can get a ticket citing an ordinance violation, but they can also get arrested and charged with a criminal offense instead. The risks do not outweigh the rewards. Retail theft is a serious crime in Illinois and the law imposes harsh penalties on anyone who is caught stealing from any store. Anyone who is charged with retail theft for the first time is likely to be surprised at how easily this offense becomes a felony.
If charged with a local ordinance violation, you will be prosecuted in a local branch court depending on the county you are in. For example, if you are given a citation in Lake County, Illinois, you will likely have court in one of the branch courts in Park City, Mundelein, or Round Lake Beach. If you are in Dupage County, you will be in Addison, Glendale Heights, or Downers Grove. In Cook County, local ordinance violations can be handled either in the suburban courthouses located in Rolling Meadows, Bridgeview, Maywood, Markham, and Skokie.
Statute and Penalties
Retail theft laws in Illinois are outlines in 720 ILCS 5/16-25. The statute mentions many different ways such as:
- Price switching (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(2))
- Under-ringing (think of a self-scan situation) (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(4))
- Using or possessing a theft detecting shielding device (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(7))
- Misappropriating for personal use (usually, if you have privileges from working at a store)
- Representing that you are the owner or stolen property in attempt to get a refund from the store (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(6)
The penalties for retail theft are severe. If the value of the items was $300 or less, then the offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The possible sentence includes up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. A conviction for this offense cannot be expunged or sealed. If the total value of the stolen merchandise was greater than $300, then the defendant can be charged with a Class 3 felony. This type of felony has a sentence of 2-5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and a fine of $25,000. Generally, a felony conviction cannot be expunged or sealed. On January 1, 2011, retail theft laws in Illinois changed so that it is a misdemeanor if the value is $300 or less. This was a major change in the law, considering that prices kept increasing and many first time offenders were eligible for a felony. If the defendant has a prior offense of retail theft, or any theft-related offense such as robbery, armed robbery, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools or home invasion, the offense is automatically a Class 4 felony.
In an Nutshell
To sum it up, many retail theft charges are small scale and are usually charged as a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail. What would otherwise be a misdemeanor may be charged as a felony if one of two things is true:
- That the value of the amount of goods or services taken exceeds $300, whereby the matter is a Class 3 felony; 625 ILCS 5/16-25(f)(3) or
- A second or subsequent offense is committed after a misdemeanor theft offense, whereby the matter is charged as a Class 4 felony; 625 ILCS 5/16-25(f)(1).
Intent to Commit a Crime
In every theft case, intent is a major consideration. If you did not intend to steal the property, it is very difficult for you to be convicted of theft. The statute requires that you take the merchandise with the intention of retaining it or depriving the merchant of possession. With every client Sami serves, he looks for ways to show that you had no intent to steal the property. Some people accused of theft have simply become distracted and did not realize they were still carrying merchandise. In some instances, people will pay for an entire cart of groceries forgetting that they have a 24 pack of water bottles on the bottom of the cart. Others have received emergency phone calls and rushed out before putting the merchandise back. When you hire Sami, he will take the time to learn everything possible about the alleged theft and use the information you provide to build a strong defense on your behalf. In every situation, he works to keep a conviction off your record above all else. If the prosecution has a compelling case, he will use his negotiating experience to try to arrive at an agreement that minimizes the impact on your rights and your future.
What are the Typical Resolutions to Retail Theft Cases?
Misdemeanor charges and ordinance violations are easily disposed of through either Court Supervision or pretrial diversion programs, also known as deferred prosecution, to certain individuals accused of first time or low-level crimes as an alternative to entering a plea of guilty to a criminal charge. Those who are eligible for diversion will have to fulfill certain requirements like performing community service and making restitution. Upon successful completion of a diversion or deferred prosecution program, the charges will be dismissed and an expungement of the arrest is possible.
If charged with a felony, a deferred prosecution is still possible depending on the individual’s background. It will be at the prosecutor’s discretion whether to offer the deferred prosecution program since it results in the dismissal of the charges.
In addition to any criminal penalties, an individual charged with retail theft can be held liable in a civil suit for damages up to $1,000, attorneys fees and court costs. They are liable even if they are found not guilty in the criminal case or the charges are dismissed. This is because the burden of proof in a criminal case is significantly higher than in a civil case. More often than not, the retailer will send a letter to the individual threatening a lawsuit that could cost them thousands of dollars, but will settle for a sum of around $300. Individuals charged with retail theft and receive these threatening letters should consult with a qualified attorney immediately after facing a charge of retail theft.
Free Consultation with a Defense Lawyer
Contact Sami Azhari today to discuss your retail theft crime case and learn more about what he can do to help you. If you would like to reach Sami quickly and directly, please call his cell phone 24/7 at (312) 626-2871 or (847) 255-2100. The consultation is free. For your convenience, weekend appointments are available.