Retail Theft Attorney Servicing the Greater Chicago Area
In many cases I 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, theft is prosecuted under 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.
A theft crime is a criminal act of taking another individual’s personal property without the individual’s consent. In Illinois, theft crimes are classified as felonies or misdemeanor offenses. A misdemeanor is charged when one takes another person’s property (valued at below $500) without the person’s consent. Misdemeanor theft is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine. A felony is charged when a person takes another person’s property (valued at $500 or greater) without the person’s consent. Felony theft crimes can result in the offender being sentenced with over a year of prison time if convicted.
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 the 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 as a Class 4 felony.
If the theft of property has a value of between $500 and $10,000, it will be charge as a Class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies are punishable by 2-5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. This offense will be increased to a Class 2 felony if the value is between $500-$10,000 and the offense took place in a school or place of worship. Class 2 felonies are punishable by 3-7 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Theft offenses between $10,000 and $100,000 are Class 2 felonies as well and increased to Class 1 felonies if the theft occurs at a school or place of worship. Class 1 felonies are punishable by 4-15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Thefts valued between $100,000 and $500,000 are also 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.
Additionally, 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 $5000 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
I 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. I 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 for a free consultation at 773-791-9682 or contact us here for a free consultation.