Shoplifting can be a very serious crime in Chicago. While a minor offense will generally be charged as a misdemeanor, a more serious act of retail theft can and will be classified as a felony.
If you are convicted of a felony in Chicago your life will change dramatically. In addition to facing harsh criminal penalties including time behind bars and expensive fines, you will also be saddled with a debilitating criminal record. If you are facing criminal charges for retail theft you have the right to defend yourself, and the Chicago theft crime attorneys at the Kostopoulos Law Group can help. Call us today to request a free consultation and learn more.
Retail Theft in Illinois
Retail theft, or shoplifting, is the crime of taking or attempting to take property without authority from a place a business. You do not actually have to remove any items from a store to be guilty of retail theft. Simply intending to steal property or defraud a store are sufficient to warrant criminal shoplifting charges.
Examples of retail theft include:
- Placing items in your pocket or bag to conceal them from view when you exit the store
- Changing the price tag on an item in an effort to pay less than what it is really worth
- Intentionally undercharging a customer for items sold in a store
- Returning items to a store that have been stolen or purchased elsewhere in an effort to obtain money or goods, and
- Keeping leased property for longer than the agreement period.
In simpler terms, any time you try to steal property or defraud a business owner out of their rightful property or profits, you can be charged with retail theft.
When is Retail Theft a Felony?
Most small acts of retail theft (property valued at $300 or less) will be charged as Class A Misdemeanors in Chicago. However, there are many aggravating factors that can cause the crime retail theft, as defined in 720 ILCS 16-25, to be elevated to a felony.
Retail Theft Using an Emergency Exit
If you use an emergency exit to commit (or attempt to commit) an act of retail theft, the criminal charge will be elevated to a felony. When you use an emergency exit, the degree of the charge will depend on the value of the property and your criminal record:
- Value of Property < $300 and No Prior Theft Conviction: Class 4 Felony
- Value of Property < $300 and Prior Theft Conviction: Class 3 Felony
- Value of Property > $300: Class 2 Felony
Value of Property Exceeds $300
When the value of property targeted in acts of retail theft exceeds $300, criminal charges can be aggravated to the felony level. It is important to understand that the state will consider the total value of all property stolen within a one-year period when determining an appropriate charge. This means that $300 worth of property can be stolen in one single incident or spread out over multiple acts. As long as you steal more than $300 in acts of retail theft in a one year period you can face felony charges.
Acts of retail theft involving more than $300 in property will be charged as a Class 3 Felony. If you use an emergency exit to steal property valued at more than $300 the crime will be elevated to a Class 2 Felony.
Penalties for Felony Retail Theft in Chicago
What Happens if You Get Caught Shoplifting?
Felony retail theft is punishable by 1-7 years in prison, depending on the specific circumstances and facts of your case. When charged as a felony, retail theft can be punishable by fines of up to $25,000. Judges also have the discretion to add any of the following penalties to your sentence:
- Restitution to victims
- Mandatory counseling
- Probation, and
- Community service.
Alternatives to Imprisonment for Retail Theft
Sometimes the penalties for felony retail theft may be harsher than is necessary to punish you for your actions. In these situations, judges may determine that alternative sentences are appropriate. These alternative sentences can help you to avoid a criminal conviction. Alternatives may include:
- Deferred Prosecution (charges are dropped and your record is expunged when you complete mandatory treatment and counseling); and
- Supervised Release (charges are dropped when you successfully show the court that you can refrain from criminal activity and be a benefit to society).
Civil Penalties for Retail Theft
When you steal property belonging to a business or defraud a business owner out of his or her rightful profits, you can also face civil consequences for your actions. The business owner has the right to file a civil lawsuit and name you as the defendant. If you are found guilty in a civil case you can be required to:
- Pay any actual damages suffered by the business as a result of your theft
- Pay monetary fines for your actions, and
- Reimburse the business for their attorney fees and costs.
Defending Retail Theft Charges in Chicago
Just because you have been accused of shoplifting in Chicago does not mean that you will be convicted of a crime. It will be important to defend yourself against any criminal charges that are filed by the state of Illinois. The arguments used on your behalf should help to explain and/or justify your alleged behavior. Defenses that may be helpful in your Chicago felony retail theft case include:
- You are the lawful owner of the property
- You believed you had the right to take the property
- You did not intend to steal the property or deprive the owner of its benefit
- You have been falsely accused, and
- You have been the victim of an unlawful search and seizure.
It is important to understand that non-law enforcement security personnel at retail stores have the right to detain you if they suspect criminal activity. You cannot use this detention as a defense if you are charged with a crime.
Fighting Felony Retail Theft Charges in Chicago
Your chances of beating criminal charges or securing a favorable plea deal are best when you work with an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. Call the Kostopoulos Law Group today to find out how our experienced retail theft attorneys can help with your criminal defense.
Our attorneys, led by former Assistant State’s Attorney Gus Kostopoulos, have over 30 years of combined experience handling complex criminal matters. We know that your future is on the line and will fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Our aggressive approach prevents the prosecution from building a strong case against you and leverages favorable outcomes. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you.
Kostopoulos Law Group
125 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 300A
Chicago, IL 60606