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Il defense lawyerThere 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.


Chicago theft defense attorneyIt should come as no surprise that taking property that does not lawfully belong to you is a criminal offense, and in Illinois, you could face misdemeanor or felony theft charges depending on the circumstances. However, you may be unaware that simply having stolen property in your possession can also be a crime, even if you are not the person who originally stole it. It can come as a shock to be charged with possession of stolen property, especially if you were not aware that it was stolen. In these cases, you should work with an attorney who can help you present a strong defense to the charges you are facing.

Illinois Law Regarding Possession of Stolen Property

The Illinois Criminal Code defines several different actions that are considered criminal theft. Most of them involve actively seizing another person’s property, whether by threat, force, deception, or without the person’s knowledge. However, state law also makes it a crime to “obtain control over stolen property” if the recipient knows that it is stolen or should reasonably be aware that it is stolen.

This means you could be charged if someone tells you they stole something and gives it to you or asks you to hold onto it, but you could also be charged even if you were not told directly that the property was stolen. If you are sold property at a price that seems too good to be true, or if someone tries to sell you a car without title documentation, for example, you could be held responsible for failing to recognize the suspicious nature of the transaction.


Potential Defenses When Accused of Retail Theft

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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.



Different Levels of Theft Charges

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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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