There are multiple factors that determine whether a retail theft conviction is a misdemeanor or felony, which is an important distinction for the offender. A felony conviction has stricter penalties, sometimes including mandatory prison time, and causes more limitations for people who have one on their criminal record. The value of the stolen items is one of the primary differences between a misdemeanor and a felony retail theft charge. Unfortunately for Illinois residents, the state has one of the lowest monetary thresholds for a felony retail theft charge, which puts defendants at greater risk of a felony conviction.
Illinois Retail Theft Law
In Illinois, the cutoff between misdemeanor and felony retail theft charges is a mere $300. A first-time retail theft conviction involving $300 or less is a Class A misdemeanor, while a first-time conviction involving more than $300 is a Class 4 felony. To put that number into perspective:
- The felony threshold for standard theft in Illinois is $500.
- Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony retail theft charges for first offenses involving less than $500.
- Fifteen states require the value of the items to be at least $1,200 before mandating a felony charge.
- Some states have set the threshold as high as $2,500.
A group of Illinois state legislators is attempting to address the state’s strict retail theft law by introducing a bill that would raise the felony threshold to $2,000, which would be one of the highest thresholds in the country. Since the law was introduced in January 2019, it has yet to move past short debates at the committee level.
Avoiding a Conviction
If you have been convicted for felony retail theft, the court has little leeway to show you mercy. A Class 4 felony conviction in Illinois requires a minimum prison sentence of one year and a maximum of three years. Your best strategy is to prevent the conviction by arguing that there was no theft, that you did not intend to commit theft, or that an error by the retailer caused false suspicion. You can also avoid a conviction if the felony charges are dismissed under the terms of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Contact a Wheaton, Illinois, Criminal Defense Lawyer
In order to effectively defend yourself against a retail theft charge, you need the help of a skilled DuPage County criminal defense attorney. Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, has more than 25 years of experience in helping people accused of retail theft avoid imprisonment. If you are facing theft charges, you can schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.