There are a variety of situations where a person may face criminal charges based on accusations of theft. Some of the most common charges in these cases involve claims that a person has committed retail theft, which is commonly known as shoplifting. While this may seem like a relatively minor offense, there are a variety of factors that may result in serious charges that can lead to large fines or significant jail time if a person is convicted. By understanding the types of actions that could lead to these charges and the potential penalties for these offenses, those who have been accused of retail theft can determine their best options for defense.
Misdemeanor or Felony Retail Theft Charges
Illinois law defines several different types of actions that are considered retail theft. In general, these charges may apply if a person takes any merchandise from a retail store without paying the full retail value. While pocketing or concealing items and leaving a store is one of the most common forms of shoplifting, retail theft charges may also apply if a person alters or removes price tags or transfers items into different packaging with the intent of paying a lower price. Intentionally under-ringing the price of an item is also considered to be retail theft, including when it is done by a cashier or a customer using a self-checkout. A person may also face criminal charges if they fail to return property to its owner after renting or leasing equipment.
If a person commits the forms of retail theft described above, and the value of the items stolen is below $300, they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. In these cases, a conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500. If the value of property is over $300, including in multiple incidents that are considered to be a “continuing course of conduct” during a one-year period, a person may be charged with a Class 3 felony. In these cases, a conviction may result in a prison sentence of between two and five years. Felony convictions may also result in fines of up to $25,000. An offender may also be required to pay restitution to the owner of the retail establishment for the value of the goods that were stolen.
There are a few other unique types of retail theft, including:
- Theft of motor fuel – Class A misdemeanor charges may apply if a person is accused of stealing up to $150 in motor fuel. Theft of more than $150 of motor fuel in a single transaction or multiple transactions that are part of a continuing course of conduct in a one-year period is a Class 3 felony.
- Using a theft detection shielding device – Possessing or using a device that will remove security tags from merchandise or shield these tags from detection when leaving a store is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense or a Class 4 felony for a second offense. A Class 4 felony conviction may result in a prison sentence of one to three years.
- Theft by emergency exit – Committing retail theft and leaving a store through an emergency exit is a Class 4 felony if the value of merchandise stolen is under $300. If merchandise is worth more than $300, including in multiple incidents within a single year, a person may be charged with a Class 2 felony, and if convicted, they may be sentenced to three to seven years in prison.
Contact Our Rolling Meadows Retail Theft Defense Lawyer
If you or a member of your family have been accused of retail theft, you will want to determine the best defense strategy against these charges. At Hartsfield Law, we can provide you with representation during criminal proceedings and help you understand how to minimize the potential consequences that you may face. Contact our Oakbrook Terrace shoplifting defense attorney today at 312-345-1700 to arrange a free consultation.