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Potential Defenses When Accused of Retail TheftDecember is the busiest time of the year for retail stores when many holiday shoppers are purchasing gifts. Store owners know that there is also an increase in retail theft during the holiday season. Stores will be on high alert for potential shoplifters, who may be enticed by the volume of merchandise on display. In their attempts to prevent shoplifting, store employees will sometimes falsely accuse a customer of retail theft. Depending on the seriousness of the alleged theft, the store may contact the police, who will decide whether to arrest you and charge you with retail theft. There are several ways to refute a retail theft charge, one of which may apply to your case:

  1. You Did Not Intend to Steal the Item: Shoppers will sometimes have mental lapses and walk out of a store carrying an item before they pay for it. This explanation is particularly believable during the holidays, when you may be in a rush and preoccupied with thinking about other errands. To be guilty of retail theft, you must have intended to steal the item from the store. The court will consider details of your case, such as whether you were attempting to conceal the item and your immediate reaction to being stopped.
  2. The Cashier Made a Mistake: Cashiers will sometimes overlook items at check out, putting the item in your bag but forgetting to ring it up. If you are caught leaving the store with the unpaid item, you need to explain that you did not know that the item was unpaid for. It may end up being your word against the cashier’s word. If store security determines that the cashier was at fault, they will still want to confirm that the cashier was not working with you to commit retail theft.
  3. The Store Mislabeled the Item: Retail theft in Illinois includes when a customer changes the price tag on an item in an attempt to lower the price. However, the prosecution must prove that you altered the price tag. It is possible that the store put the wrong tag on the item or forgot to remove an old tag.

Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

Retail stores will rush to judgment when they believe they have caught someone trying to steal from them. Fortunately, it is the justice system, and not store owners, that will decide whether the incident is worthy of a criminal charge. If you are charged, an Oakbrook Terrance, Illinois, criminal defense lawyer at Hartsfield Law can contest the allegations brought against you. Schedule a free consultation by calling 312-345-1700.

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Posted on in Theft

Different Levels of Theft ChargesTheft is a criminal charge that varies in punishment depending on the details of the offense. A conviction for theft can range from a misdemeanor to the highest level of a felony. Illinois law classifies its theft charges based on how much was stolen, how it was stolen, and where the theft took place. Facing a misdemeanor or felony charge could change how you contest the charge against you and whether you may be willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Value of Theft

The lowest-level theft charge is a class A misdemeanor and is defined as theft of $500 or less and not from the owner’s person. A conviction could result in less than a year in prison and fines of no more than $2,500. Retail theft often falls in this category. A second theft conviction is a class 4 felony, punishable by one-to-three years in prison. Thefts that are greater than $500 are also felony offenses in Illinois:

  • Theft greater than $500 and no more than $10,000 is a class 3 felony, punishable by two-to-five years in prison;
  • Theft greater than $10,000 and no more than $100,000 is a class 2 felony, punishable by three-to-seven years in prison;
  • Theft greater than $100,000 and no more than $500,000 is a class 1 felony, punishable by four-to-17 years in prison;
  • Theft greater than $500,000 and no more than $1 million is also a class 1 felony but is non-probational; and
  • Theft of more than $1 million is a class X felony, punishable by six-to-30 years in prison.

All felony theft convictions can also include fines of as much as $25,000.

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