Chicago Retail Theft Defense Lawyers

Accused of Shoplifting in Illinois? Call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today at (312) 644-0444.

While retail theft or shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, it is considered a serious crime in Illinois and the punishments can be quite severe. Depending on the details of the theft, the penalties include harsh fines and more than 1 year in prison. Defending against a charge of shoplifting can be difficult, especially if you try to undertake the task on your own.

Don't try to deal with any criminal charge, even shoplifting, without the help of an experienced Chicago theft defense attorney. In Illinois, these crimes can sometimes be upgraded into felonies. If you or someone you know has been charged with retail theft, call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC at (800) 996-4824 today. Tell us about your case and we can discuss your defense options and provide free information about how your rights can be protected.

What Is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is specifically when a person takes goods from a store or business establishment without paying for them. It’s a specific form of larceny (taking the property of someone else without permission) and is punished under the retail theft statutes of Illinois.

What Is Retail Theft?

Illinois laws are very precise in defining different forms of retail theft; but in general it comes down to taking, possessing, carrying away, or transferring retail merchandise to deprive the merchant of its full value. This can include:

  • Shoplifting: Placing an item in your pocket and walking out of a store.
  • Switching/removing price tags: Purposefully changing or removing a price tag to pay less for an item than what it's worth.
  • Changing containers: Moving an item from one are to another with the intent to "deprive the merchant of the full retail value"; for example, tossing something in a Clearance bin.
  • Under-ringing: Ringing up/paying less for the item than it’s worth to the merchant.
  • Removing shopping carts: Anyone who takes a shopping cart from a store premises, intending to keep it, is guilty of retail theft.
  • False returns: Pretending to be the owner of property and trying to return it to a merchant for cash value or credit.
  • Owning or using a theft detection device remover/detector: Anything that allows you to either remove anti-theft devices from merchandise or disable security checkpoints. A violation of this is a misdemeanor for a first offense and felony for a second/subsequent offense.
  • Keeping control of merchant’s property: Refers mainly to renters who do not return property after a lease is over. You must return it or pay the full retail value within 10 days after a "proper" written demand letter from the owner.

It’s important to note that concealing any unpaid merchandise upon your person or in your belongings in Illinois allows the law to presume your intent to steal it.

What Changes the Charge?

Certain factors make some forms of retail theft more serious in the eyes of the law than others. Factors that impact severity include:

  • Low-Value Items: Taking an item that has a full retail value of $300 or less, or motor fuel less than $150 in value, is a misdemeanor for a first offense, and a felony for a second and any subsequent offenses.
  • High-Value Items: Taking an item or items valued at more than $300, or more than $150 in motor fuel, is a felony.
  • Previous Convictions: Retail theft that does not exceed a value of $300, or $150 in motor fuel, by someone who has previously been convicted of theft, robbery, or similar crimes is a felony.
  • Use of an Emergency Exit: When taking items with a retail value of $300 or less, taking the emergency exit also makes it a felony. Retail theft by emergency exit involving items with a value of $300 or less, in which the person has a previous conviction of theft or a similar crime, is a felony. Theft by emergency exit involving property valued at more than $300 is a felony.

The court will add the value of all the items taken together, creating an "aggregate" value. This is the value it will assign when charging and sentencing the person accused of retail theft.

Penalties for Shoplifting

Penalties for retail theft depend on the severity of the charges. Even if your defense attorney cannot get the case against you dismissed, he or she may be able to argue for a lesser charge, which will have a tremendous impact on the potential punishment you face if convicted. Typical punishments for a conviction include:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Class 4 Felony: 1-3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • Class 3 Felony: 2-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • Class 2 Felony: 3-7 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

In addition, the store can demand payment of civil penalties from the alleged shoplifter. Illinois law allows stores to add up to $1,000 to the value of the items taken in these fines. Be warned, paying a store’s penalty does not mean the criminal case will be dropped.

Defense Strategies

There are different defense strategies that can be used to either prove your innocence or attempt to reduce the charges against you if you have been charged with retail theft. Common strategies include proving a lack of intent on your part to actually commit theft; for example, if you were detained while still in the store and had not removed the item from the retail establishment. Impairment can also be used as a defense, including general mental impairments and intoxication. The right defense really comes down to the details of your case, however, and this is why you need a skilled defense attorney to represent you.

If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today at (800) 996-4824. Our Chicago criminal defense attorneys have over 25 years of experience and we will aggressively represent your interests.