While most people recognize that shoplifting is wrong, there is a common perception that it is a fairly minor criminal offense with few serious consequences. However, according to Illinois law, shoplifting or retail theft can sometimes be charged as a felony, with penalties that can be quite serious. If you are facing theft charges, it is important to understand how severe they may be and to work with an experienced attorney who can help you build a strong defense.
When is Retail Theft a Felony?
The Illinois Criminal Code defines the severity of theft offenses in large part based on the value of the property stolen. Most shoplifting or retail theft offenses involve property worth less than $300, and as such, they are charged as Class A misdemeanors. Even this is a serious offense that could result in a sentence of imprisonment for less than one year.
However, the possible penalties increase substantially when a person is charged with stealing property worth more than $300 from a store or retail outlet. In Illinois, this is considered a Class 3 felony offense, which can come with a prison sentence of 2 to 5 years, along with fines and other consequences. Felony retail theft charges may apply if the offender steals property worth more than $300 in one single instance, or in separate instances within a one-year period, even if they took place at different retail establishments.
Other factors can also raise retail theft charges to a felony offense. For example:
If the offender has a prior conviction for an offense related to theft, robbery, burglary, or forgery, retail theft will be charged as a Class 4 felony, even if the value of the property stolen is less than $300.
If the offender uses an emergency exit to steal property worth less than $300, they can be charged with a Class 4 felony. The charge increases to a Class 2 felony, with a prison sentence of up to 7 years, if the property is worth more than $300.
If you are charged with felony retail theft, you are entitled to representation from a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you develop a defense strategy to avoid conviction or contest evidence of aggravating circumstances that could increase your sentence. If avoiding conviction is not possible, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate a plea deal to avoid some of the most serious consequences.
Contact a Lombard Retail Theft Defense Lawyer
At [[title]], we represent defendants in misdemeanor and felony theft cases, and we can help you protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome to your case. For a free initial consultation with an experienced DuPage County criminal defense attorney, call us today at [[phone]]. We serve English-speaking and Polish-speaking clients.