An 81 year old Chicago man was recently arrested in Arlington Heights and charged with the criminal offense of Retail Theft (also known as shoplifting). Whereas a âregularâ theft involves taking something of value from another person without permission or authority, a retail theft involves taking something of value from a retail establishment. That place might be a big store with many locations such as Macyâs, Target, Jewel, or Home Depot, or it might be a small family owned store with only one location. But, as long as the store sells things to the public, itâs considered to be a retail establishment.
What Type of Crime is a Retail Theft in Chicago?
Whether a person is a charged with this crime in Chicago, Arlington Heights or anywhere else in Illinois, the potential effects on that personâs future may be affected. If the defendant doesnât have full citizenship status as a US citizen, a plea of guilty or finding of guilty to such a charge may affect their immigration status or depending upon the circumstances, may even result in deportation or removal. Thatâs because retail theft is considered to be a crime of âmoral turpitudeâ, which basically means bad character or dishonesty.
- Local Ordinance Theft - A Retail Theft offense is sometimes charged as a âlocal ordinanceâ, which means that a local police department may choose to prosecute the crime under that cityâs or municipalityâs own book of laws, referred to as a city code or municipal code. When a person is charged in this way, sometimes, they are not even fingerprinted, arrested or subject to a mug shot. Itâs also much less likely that the information of this offense will appear on that personâs ârap sheetâ. The other benefit to being charged in this way is that because itâs not a misdemeanor or a felony, itâs unlikely to be an answer to any of the typical questions on a job application.
- Misdemeanor Theft - Usually, a retail theft is charged as a misdemeanor when the accused has not been convicted of a theft in the past and the amount of the merchandise doesnât exceed $300. When a theft is charged in this way, itâs a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to $2500 in fines and up to a year in jail. Misdemeanors are âstate chargesâ which means that they are charged under the Illinois book of laws called the Illinois Complied Statutes. A person will almost always be subject to fingerprints and a mug shot when charged as a misdemeanor.
- Felony Theft - But depending on the amount of merchandise involved and the defendantâs criminal background, a retail theft can also be charged as a felony, subject to more than one year in the penitentiary. Whereas local ordinance offenses and misdemeanors may result in a sentence of supervision (which may allow the expungement of the charge), felonies are not generally expungable, unless a special disposition of âdeferred prosecutionâ has been agreed to ahead of time with the prosecutor or Stateâs Attorney.
But I Didnât Mean to Steal Anything
A retail theft is an âintentâ crime, which means that a person must have the actual intention of stealing something and depriving the owner permanently of the use of the item. But absent a confession by the defendant that he or she intentionally stole merchandise, how exactly can the police and prosecutor prove what a person intended? No one can ever look into your brain to determine what you were thinking, right? So, if you continue to insist that it was just a mistake and you donât confess, you can never be proven guilty, right? Wrong. If that was all there was to it, no one would ever be convicted of a crime. Thatâs where evidence, including circumstantial evidence, comes into play. Circumstantial evidence is something that although it doesnât directly prove a personâs guilt or innocence (like a video of the person stealing the item), tends to suggest that a person did or didnât do something.
Retail Theft in Self-Checkout Lanes
For instance, these days, self-checkout lines are in a great many stores. Itâs very common for a person to be charged with a crime when they havenât scanned and paid for all the items in their cart. Inevitably, the shopper is detained by store security and held for police, where most of the time, the customer will say that he or she was distracted by others, spacing out, or scanned the items but didnât realize that the scanner didnât register the purchase. So how is a judge to decide whether that person really âintendedâ to commit a theft? Often, the answer is with the help of circumstantial evidence at trial. Examples of this type of evidence in a theft case might include:
- Surveillance video â does it show that the shopper: Really did scan the items? Looked around nervously like he or she is trying to determine if others are watching? Walked quickly to the exit door? Was distracted by crying children? Opened packages or switched price stickers?
- Store receipts â is the shopper accused of purchasing many items, but paying an amount that is much less than what would have been expected? In other words, if a person purchased a frozen pizza and an expensive cut of steak, but the amount that was paid was only $5, shouldnât they have realized that maybe the steak wasnât scanned properly?
- Eyewitness testimony â did store security follow the shopper around or monitor him or her via security video cameras? Would they testify that the person was doing anything unusual or waiting until others were not present in the aisle to take items from the shelf?
- Age and/or mental condition â was the person elderly or suffering from a mental condition which might have made it such that they didnât really realize that they hadnât paid for the item?
Consult Our Experienced Chicago Retail Theft Team
Every theft case is different and every client deserves to have their case evaluated individually to determine whether a legitimate criminal defense exists that may result in a finding of not guilty at trial. Since 1990, the criminal attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have handled thousands of theft and retail theft cases in all major counties in Northern Illinois including Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Will, McHenry and many others. Call today for a free initial consultation to discuss your rights at (312) 644-0444.