What to Know if You're Arrested for Shoplifting

ShopliftingRetailers across Illinois and the country are currently preparing for the busiest time of the year: the winter holidays. The preparation goes beyond merely pushing Black Friday discounts and promoting the season’s most-wanted gifts. As shoppers descend upon retailers in large numbers, store employees and security are on the lookout for potential shoplifters. Anyone arrested for this crime faces serious legal trouble.

Illinois citizens can always benefit from knowing more about the law as that knowledge may come in handy someday. Here is what to know if you are ever arrested and charged with shoplifting.

What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting?

Many people view shoplifting as a minor offense. The truth however, is that the penalties can be severe. Illinois Statute 5/16-25 lists the following punishments for those convicted of this offense:

  • Shoplifting may be classified as a Class A Misdemeanor - the highest of all misdemeanors - if the items that the defendant took had a collective retail value under $300. That can mean up to a full year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
  • Committing the offense while having a history of convictions for theft, robbery, burglary or certain other crimes elevates the charges to a Class 4 Felony. “Theft by emergency exit of property” is also a Class 4 Felony even if the property valued is less than $300. People convicted of this charge may face between one and three years in state prison. The maximum fine increases tenfold, and it remains at $25,000 for further felony levels.
  • If the court convicts someone of shoplifting more than $300 in property, they are guilty of a Class 3 Felony. The same applies to someone convicted of “theft by emergency exit “ involving items worth under $300 and having been previously convicted of theft or certain other dishonest crimes. Class 3 Felonies mean that a judge can sentence that person to between two and five years in prison if probation is not granted.
  • “Theft by emergency exit” for property worth more than $300 is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by imprisonment for anywhere between three and seven years in prison.

The Importance of Intent

People should not take shoplifting charges lightly. With that said, it may help to understand how Illinois law defines the term.

The Illinois court system considers shoplifting to be basically synonymous with the crime of retail theft. Statute 5/16-25 states that someone can be convicted of retail theft for taking property from a vendor “with the intention of retaining such merchandise or with the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value of such merchandise.”

The quoted section may seem like a long way of saying “with the intention of not paying for it.” But it highlights an important aspect of the shoplifting charge: intention. Accidents happen. Sometimes, people find items in a store, place them in their pocket for whatever reason, or neglect to replace them on the shelves. The chances of this happening increase if someone is intoxicated, elderly, or if they have a mental handicap. The justice system did not create shoplifting laws to punish accidental takers of items.

For defendants, that means that the prosecution would need to prove that the defendant knowingly committed this act. They would need evidence to support this. If the defense team can show that the accused had no intention of stealing anything or was not in full control of their faculties at the time of arrest, then the court may rule in their favor.

Contact Experienced Retail Theft Lawyers in Chicago

This information will prove helpful if you or a loved one face charges of shoplifting. But consulting a lawyer who has years of experience in this area of law can assist you far more. For representation in legal matters related to shoplifting or other crimes, contact the Chicago retail theft lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC.

We are familiar with all the smallest details of the Illinois statutes, and we know the best strategies for defending those who are accused of violating such laws. Call us today at (312) 644-0444 for a free consultation with a retail theft attorney.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : July 2, 2020