Shoplifting may seem like a victimless crime, but it is taken very seriously by the state of Illinois. The associated penalties prove it.
Any store can be a target for those who shoplift, but dramatic things happen in stores with big-ticket items that can yield big money when sold by those who steal them. Recently, a group of people rushed into the Louis Vuitton store in Oak Brook and filled garbage bags with merchandise. Police say they got away with a minimum of $100,000 in merchandise.
Most people aren’t knocking off Louis Vuitton stores, but that’s not necessary to be guilty of shoplifting. You are shoplifting if you take a tag off of an item or alter its price, not simply try to pocket it and leave the store without paying. Here is what you need to know about shoplifting in Illinois as well as some common defenses to shoplifting charges.
What is Shoplifting in Illinois?
In Illinois, the law makes it illegal to carry away, transfer, possess, or take any retail merchandise in order to permanently deprive the retailer of its full value. This can even include paid merchandise that you didn’t pay the full retail value of if you somehow altered the price tag.
Some other situations under which you can be charged with shoplifting in Illinois include:
- Using or having a theft detection shielding device
- Transferring, removing, or altering a price tag or label
- Under-ringing merchandise at self-checkout
- Transferring merchandise from a container to another
- Falsifying ownership of the property to the retailer
To be found guilty of shoplifting, the prosecution must prove that you had the intent to deprive the merchant of their wares. However, as evidence of your intent to deprive, they can claim you concealed merchandise or took it from the store without paying.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Illinois
Shoplifting charges in Illinois have the potential to carry quite steep penalties. That’s because the penalties are directly proportional to the value of the items that were stolen. In most cases, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime, but it can be increased to a felony if the value of the merchandise is above $300.
Merchandise worth less than $300 can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. This can send you to jail for up to 12 months and make you responsible for fines for as high as $2,500. Repeat offenses, even if the value is under $300, can be charged as class four felonies, and are punishable by up to three years in prison and fines of $25,000.
Defenses to Shoplifting in Illinois
There are some solid defenses that can be used against shoplifting charges in Illinois. Some of the most common include:
- You did not leave the store with unpaid merchandise knowingly
- The cashier did not properly ring up the merchandise you purchased
- You did not leave the store, so you had no intention of depriving the owner of their merchandise
- The store had mislabeled the item, you had nothing to do with the altering the price
- You believed that you were rightfully entitled to leave the store with the merchandise because you believe you purchased it
- You were impaired and unable to commit the crime knowingly
- There was no intent to shoplift the item in question
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 Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.