According to 720 ILCS 5/16-25, retail theft occurs when a person knowingly and with the intent to take ownership of, use, or benefit from the merchandise without paying the full retail price:
- Takes possesses, carries, and/or transfers a retail item.
- Removes, alters or transfers a price tag or label from a retail item.
- Transfers merchandise from one container or package to another.
- Possesses or utilizes a theft detection shielding device.
- Lies about owning an item to a retail merchant.
- Removes a shopping cart from the retail store without consent.
You may also face additional penalties if you are charged with “theft by the emergency exit,” which involves committing any of the aforementioned acts and then using a designated emergency exit to leave with the merchandise.
What Is the Penalty for Shoplifting in Illinois?
The penalties for retail theft vary based on the total value of the property stolen as well as other mitigating factors. The penalties are as follows:
- Shoplifting retail items valued at $300 or less is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines of up to $2,500 and/or 1 year of imprisonment.
- Shoplifting retail items valued at $300 or less with a prior conviction or using an emergency exit to commit retail theft is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by fines up to $25,000 and/or 1-3 years of imprisonment.
- Shoplifting retail items valued at $300 or less and using an emergency exit with a prior conviction or shoplifting items valued over $300 (including in separate offenses committed within a year) is a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by fines of up to $25,000 and/or 2-5 years of imprisonment.
- Shoplifting retail items valued over $300 (including in separate offenses committed within a year) is a Class 2 felony, which is punishable by fines of up to $25,000 and/or 3-7 years of imprisonment.
In addition to imprisonment and hefty fines, felony convictions can also impact your life as you lose certain civil rights (right to bear arms) and may have difficulties with job searches or home applications. Certain retail theft convictions are not eligible for expungement.
There are also civil penalties for retail theft (see 720 ILCS 5/16-27). The store owner may seek civil damages to obtain the full retail value, a penalty of $100-$1,000, and/or attorneys’ fees and court costs. If the alleged offender is a minor, their parents or legal guardian can be held liable.
Defending Against Retail Theft Charges
At the Law Office of Steven Fine, our attorney has over two decades of legal experience. Once you retain our firm, Attorney Fine can work with you to develop a personalized legal defense strategy. Possible defenses include:
- Mistake of fact. We can argue that you own the allegedly stolen item, and the item simply resembles the merchandise in the retail store.
- Acting without intent. We can argue that you accidentally left the store with the item and didn’t intend to leave the retail store without paying.
- Entrapment. We can argue that you were framed by someone else. Sometimes friends or other shoppers may slip merchandise into your bag or pockets.
- Mental impairment. We can argue that you did not realize what you were doing because you were under the influence.
- Cashier error. We can argue that the cashier may not have properly scanned your items at checkout
If you’ve been charged with retail theft, our firm can help you protect your rights and freedoms. Schedule an initial case consultation today by calling (312) 436-0638 or completing this online form.