Retail Theft Lawyers Servicing the Greater Chicago Area
Retail theft, or shoplifting, is a common criminal offense in Illinois that can result in serious legal consequences. If you have been accused of this crime, it’s important to seek the advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney. At The Law Office of Purav Bhatt, we specialize in defending clients facing shoplifting charges in Illinois.
In many cases we handle, people make bad decisions and steal things. Occasionally, there is a misunderstanding and false charges are brought against innocent and good people. The chances of getting a retail theft or shoplifting charge reduced to a less serious offense or dismissed depends greatly on the experience of the Chicago Retail Theft Attorney representing you.
What is considered Theft?
In Illinois, retail theft, also known as shoplifting, is defined by 720 ILCS 5/16-1. A person commits the offense of theft when he or she knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over the property of the owner or obtains control over the property through deception or threat. Additionally, you can be charged with theft if you possess stolen property and know the property was stolen. This can include:
- Taking, carrying, or transferring an item
- Removing or changing the price tag or label
- Using a theft detection shielding device
- Lying to a store about owning an item
- Taking a shopping cart without permission
If you commit any of these acts and leave through an emergency exit, it is called “theft by the emergency exit” and can result in additional penalties. Similarly, damaging an item to obtain it at a discounted price may also be considered retail theft.
The key factor that distinguishes retail theft in Illinois is “intent”. Shoplifting occurs when an individual takes possession of any retail product and moves it away from its original location. To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the individual had the intent to keep the property.
For example, removing an item from a store and taking it to the food court in a shopping mall could be considered retail theft, but if the action was accidental and the person intends to return it, it may not qualify as retail theft.
As there are various scenarios and potential outcomes, it’s important to seek the legal assistance of a Chicago theft attorney as soon as possible.
Penalties for Retail Theft in Illinois
The penalties for these criminal cases can vary depending on the value of the merchandise stolen and whether you have any prior convictions for retail theft.
Theft of Merchandise Valued at $500 or Less
- Retail theft of merchandise valued at $500 or less is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
- A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Theft of Merchandise Valued Between $500 and $10,000
- Retail theft of merchandise valued between $500 and $10,000 is considered a Class 3 felony.
- A Class 3 felony is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Theft of Merchandise Valued Between $10,000 and $100,000
- Retail theft of merchandise valued between $10,000 and $100,000 is considered a Class 2 felony.
- A Class 2 felony is punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Theft of Merchandise Valued Between $100,000 and $500,000
- Retail theft of merchandise valued between $100,000 and $500,000 is considered a Class 1 felony.
- A Class 1 felony is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Thefts valued between $100,000 and $500,000 are considered Class 1 felonies unless the theft took place in a school or place of worship. In those circumstances, the defendant will be charged with a Class X offense punishable by 6–30 years in prison.
Another factor in determining the possible penalties for theft is where the theft takes place. Illinois law is designed to protect certain places from theft by increasing the penalties for offenders who commit theft in certain locations. Theft of property not exceeding $500 is still a Class 4 felony if the theft was committed in a school or place of worship or if the theft was of government property. A Class 4 felony is punishable by 1–3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Additionally, a person who has been convicted of theft of property not from a person and not exceeding $500 in value, and who has been previously convicted of any type of theft, robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, home invasion, forgery or possession of a stolen motor vehicle will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
Certain theft offenses are non-probationable. This means that the defendant must serve a prison sentence and is not eligible for probation, house arrest, or any deferred sentence. For instance, if the theft of property is exceeding $500,000 and not exceeding $1,000,000 in value, the offense is considered a Class 1 felony and is non-probationable.
Furthermore, if the victim of the theft was over 60 years old, the penalties increase for theft offenses as well. If the theft is greater than $5,000 and the victim is over 60 years of age, the offense is a Class 2 felony.
A person may also be charged with theft if he/she is in possession of an item after receiving written notice from the owner and failing to return the item within 10 days.
Frequently Committed Crimes
The most common theft related crimes include: burglary, shoplifting or retail theft, possession of stolen motor vehicle, identity theft, misuse of credit card, counterfeiting, embezzlement and forgery.
If a person is convicted a theft crime, he/she may be punished with:
- large fines
- community service
- probation/court supervision/conditional discharge
We represent many clients who have been charged with theft. Whether this theft was a one-time act or whether the theft occurred over the course of time, the value of what was taken will determine the possible penalties for theft and sentences one may receive.
Class A Misdemeanor
Whether the value of the items taken was $1 or $499 you will be charged the same. Any penalties for theft under 720 ILCS 5/16-1 that is valued less than $500 is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to 1 year in jail. This amount was recently raised from $150 to $500 because of the rising cost of items in retail stores. For a time, many of my clients, generally good people, were being charged with felony charges for taking a single item such as an mp3 player. The courts are filled with first-time offenders who are being charged with felony offenses because of the amount and have no idea about the penalties for theft that await them. Thankfully, the state legislature realized this problem and raised the amount necessary for felony charges.
As mentioned above, any theft where the value is above $500 is considered a felony offense. What level of felony you are charged with will be determined by the value of the items. We have had a few clients that were employees and have taken funds over time. The amounts were small, but over the course of months and years these amounts add up to thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result of these small amounts taken, these individuals face class 1 and class 2 felonies. Sometimes, these felonies are non-probationable and prison sentences are mandatory according to law. This can be a scary proposition for a first-time offender and great efforts have to be taken to protect these clients from going to prison.
If the value of what was taken is over $500 but under $10,000 you will be charged with a class 3 felony. A class 3 felony carries a 2-5 year possible prison sentence. If the value of what was taken exceeds $1,000,000 you will be charged with a class X felony. A class X felony is a non-probationable felony and the offender must serve a sentence of between 6-30 years if convicted.
As a result of the serious nature of the possible penalties for theft of misdemeanor and felony convictions, it is important that you have an experienced theft lawyer on your side to guide and counsel you through your criminal case. Theft attorney Purav Bhatt has handled thousands of theft related crimes in Chicago and Illinois. Call us at 773-791-9682 or contact us online here.
Potential Defense Strategies for Retail Theft in Illinois
Here are some of the top defenses our theft lawyers may use to get your charges dropped or reduced.
Lack of Intent: Since shoplifting is a specific intent crime, the accused must have had the intention to steal the merchandise. If the accused can prove that they had no intention to steal the item, but it was instead a misunderstanding or a mistake, this defense could be used.
Mistaken Identity: If the accused is not the person who committed the retail theft, they can use the defense of mistaken identity. For example, they may have been misidentified by a witness or the surveillance camera footage did not clearly show their face.
Duress or Coercion: If the accused was forced to commit the retail theft under duress or coercion, they can use this defense. For example, they may have been threatened with harm if they did not commit the crime.
Consent: This approach can be used if the accused can prove that they had consent to take the merchandise. For example, they may have borrowed the item from a friend who gave them permission.
Illegal Search and Seizure: If the accused was searched illegally or without probable cause, any evidence found as a result of the search may be inadmissible in court.
Entrapment: If the accused was lured into committing retail theft by law enforcement, they may use the defense of entrapment.
It’s best to consult with a dedicated attorney who can review the details of your case and determine the most effective defense strategy.
Hire One of the Top Criminal Defense Lawyers for Legal Help With Your Retail Theft Charges in Illinois
If you are facing retail theft, identity theft, robbery, or aggravated robbery charges in Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, or Kane County, Illinois, hiring the right theft lawyer can make all the difference in getting a favorable outcome for your case. At The Law Office of Purav Bhatt, we understand the serious consequences that can come with a theft conviction, which is why our team of accomplished criminal defense attorneys will fight for you to get your charges dismissed or reduced. We will use every legal tool at our disposal to build a strong defense strategy and defend you in court so retail theft does not end up on your criminal record.
We don’t just stop at the legal representation. We also offer compassionate and personalized support to our clients because we know that facing criminal charges can be a stressful and emotional experience. An experienced attorney will keep you informed and involved at every step of the process, and we will always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
To speak with one of our top attorneys today, call our law offices at 773-791-9682 or reach out to us here.