Chicago Guide to Retail Theft Offenses - Part 2

Man stealing Book

In our last blog (Chicago Guide to Retail Theft - Part 1) we detailed a number of different situations regarding Retail Theft that can be found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes and are described therein as being against the law. Here in part 2, we explain several additional sets of circumstances that may also result in retail theft charges, some of which may not be commonly known. These offenses may be charges as misdemeanors or as felonies, and include:

Use of a Theft Deterrent Device

Under the law that governs courts in Chicago and across Illinois, when a defendant is accused of utilizing a “theft deterrent device” while committing a retail theft, the stakes are raised. A theft deterrent device is something that a person typically brings with them when visiting a store and with the express purpose of committing a crime. Many times, a client has said that they went to a store with no intention of committing a crime, but something suddenly came over them that caused them to commit a retail theft, whether due to mental illness, medication, intoxication, drug use or unexplained reasons. Although these explanations do not rise to the level of defenses, they can be explained to the judge or presented to the prosecutor in the form of a mitigation package. But on those occasions that a person is apprehended by the police while in possession of what is called a theft deterrent device, making such a plea for leniency is made much more difficult. That’s because there is generally no other explanation for such devices.

Take for example what is often referred to as a “booster bag”. This generally refers to a bag, sack, purse or package that is lined with some sort of metallic foil such as aluminum intended to block or shield signals to the security tag affixed to the merchandise so that the alarm doesn’t sound when exiting. There is generally no good explanation (other than intending to commit a theft) for why a person would be walking around with a foil lined bag (unless one is trying to keep their tuna salad sandwich cool or their pizza warm). Other kinds of theft deterrent devices include special tools or magnets used to remove ink packs or magnetic tags from clothing or other items. As far as judges, prosecutors and Illinois laws are concerned, when a defendant has been arrested in a retail establishment in possession of such devices, they have a lot of explaining to do. That’s why the Illinois statute for retail theft specifically indicates that the use or possession of a theft deterrent device is a higher crime and more likely to be a felony than otherwise.

Getting caught with such a device is similar to be charged with car theft when in the person’s possession is a screwdriver, pry bar, wire cutters or the like. There may be an explanation of why someone would carry these things around, but ultimately it will be up to the judge to decide whether it’s a good explanation or not such a good explanation.

Failure to Return Leased Property

Another lesser known portion of the Illinois Criminal statute that governs retail thefts in Chicago and elsewhere in the state is the prohibition related to the return of leased property. This refers to a situation in which a person may initially be in legal possession of an item, but then he or she stops paying for that item in violation of the terms of the lease agreement. The owner then requests the immediate return of that item or for the person to pay the full value. This can refer to any number of things that a person may lease such as furniture rental, but more typically, criminal charges of this sort relate to car leases. It doesn’t generally matter how long the defendant has made dutiful payments on the automobile. He or she may have paid without fail for 46 of the 48 months on the lease. But if payments stop and the owner demands in writing that the driver immediately return the car according to the requirements in the Illinois statute, the owner may report the car as stolen to the police department. As items such as cars are usually big-ticket items, the accused may soon find himself or herself charged with a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, because the monetary value of the item usually determines the level of the criminal charge.

Theft by Emergency Exit

When a person not only commits a retail theft, but exits the retail establishment through an emergency exit, the statutory stakes are raised as well. Whereas most of the circumstances under the law will result in a criminal misdemeanor charge, if it can be proven in a court of law that the defendant committed a retail theft and then attempted to escape via an emergency exit, the statute provides for a crime of this sort to be charged as a felony. Emergency exits are usually designated as such with words on the door or indications that an alarm will sound if the door is opened.

Hire an Experienced Retail Theft Attorney

Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC has assembled a team of experienced criminal litigators ready to assist those charged in Chicago and across the state of Illinois with offenses including Retail Theft. Our law offices can be reached any time of day at (312) 644-0444 or by contacting us online for additional information.

This blog is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on specific legal questions.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : December 30, 2021