Assessing the Boundaries of Retail Theft Crimes in the North Shore
Despite the presence of sensors, cameras, guards, and other anti-theft strategies, retail theft is a serious problem for businesses across Illinois. The commercial impact of stolen merchandise affects all types of retail businesses, from large operations like Old Orchard in Skokie to “mom and pop” stores in neighborhoods across the state. That is why Illinois law features strict laws against and stringent penalties for retail theft crimes. Moreover, business in villages like Skokie, Morton Grove, Northbrook, or Glenview are vigilante when it comes to theft detection.
Laws Against Retail Theft in Skokie
Illinois law under 720 ILCS 5/16-25 provides the definition of retail theft. There are essentially eight different versions of this offense. Certain versions of this crime deal with specific types of property, such as retail merchandise or a shopping cart. Other versions of this crime deal with property in general and can apply outside of the retail context.
More specifically, a person commits retail theft if they knowingly:
- Take possession or carry away retail merchandise from a store without any intention of returning the merchandise;
- Alter, transfer, or remove the price tag on retail merchandise with the intention of paying less than the full value of the merchandise;
- Transfer retail merchandise from its original container with the intention of depriving the owner of the merchandise’s full value;
- Sell retail merchandise at a decreased price with the intention of depriving the owner of the merchandise’s full value;
- Remove a shopping cart from a retail store without authorization or any intention of returning the cart;
- Misrepresent property ownership with the intention of obtaining a retail exchange for money, credit, or other things of value;
- Use or possess an anti-detection device with the intention of stealing retail merchandise from a merchant; or
- Exert unauthorized control over property with the intention of depriving the owner of the use or benefit of the property.
As with many Illinois crimes, there is a knowledge requirement for retail theft. In other words, a person must know – or have a reason to know – that they are committing or attempting to commit retail theft. Absent such knowledge, it does not necessarily qualify as a criminal violation of Illinois law.
Oftentimes people will have a cart full of merchandise and pay for a majority of them and simply forget about an item. This could be an honest mistake and forgetting to pay for an item is not an intent to steal. However, despite the intent requirement, it is rarely a successful argument in court that a person simply forgot about an item in their cart or on their person.
Illinois Penalties for Retail Theft
Section 16-25 also establishes the criminal punishment for retail theft offenses. It is important to note that certain types of retail theft – such using an anti-detection device or emergency exit – feature a more severe punishment scheme. But generally speaking, for retail theft offenses involving property worth less than $300 – or motor fuel worth less than $150 – it is usually a Class A misdemeanor under Section 16-25. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can lead to a 364-day jail sentence and criminal fines up to $2,500.
On the other hand, retail theft of less than $300 in property or $150 in motor fuel can become a Class 4 felony under Section 16-25. This felony version applies when the offender has a previous conviction for theft, robbery, burglary, forgery, or similar crimes. A conviction for a Class 4 felony can trigger a three-year prison sentence and criminal fines up to $25,000.
For retail theft offenses involving property worth more than $300 – or motor fuel worth more than $150 – it is usually a Class 3 felony under Section 16-25. In these high-value situations, retail theft crimes can occur in a single transaction or in related occasions that occur within the span of 12 months. A conviction for a Class 3 felony can result in a five-year prison sentence and criminal fines up to $25,000.