With the holiday shopping season in full swing, shoplifting and retail thefts are at the highest levels of the year. Shoplifting in Illinois and cook county is at such a high level that people, who usually consider themselves upstanding citizens, commit the offense of retail theft at one time or other. Some people simply switch the price tag with another from a less-expensive item but, in the eyes of the law, this is stealing as well. To others, some minor actions may not even seem unethical but, shoplifting is serious, and can carry harsh penalties.

Shoplifting, under 720 ilcs 5/16-25, is an offense that treats everyone equally. People from all backgrounds imaginable are arrested and caught. Even the rich and famous shoplift, as we’ve seen in troubled celebrities who have made the headlines in recent memory. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, approximately 25% of those arrested for shoplifting are children who are 13-17 years old. Adults make up the remainder of arrests and a large percentage of shoplifters are employees.

Research has shown that 75% of employees have admitted to committing retail theft at least one time. The reported loss for retailers just from employee theft amounts to as much as $50 billion annually. Employee theft makes sense because they have an advantage among shoplifters. Employees are familiar with store security and have additional access to secure areas.

Teenagers shoplift out of a desire to have what they oftentimes can’t afford. Peer pressure for young people can be a factor and may lead them to act in ways they otherwise would not. However, another surprising motivation for teens caught shoplifting is boredom.

Adults, similarly, shoplift for surprising reasons. The general notion of the poor woman stealing food for her starving family is not the majority of retail theft cases in reality. Wanting an item can be a factor, but adults often report that they were reacting to the daily pressures of life. Psychologists report that shoplifting provides these people with psychological relief.

We’ve oftentimes heard of the “high” people experience when they shoplift. This “high” has been compared to a drug high and has been shown to affect the brain in similar ways. Those caught shoplifting have reported that they began shoplifting out of necessity, but continued shoplifting because of the rush and pleasure they experienced. In some cases they actually become addicted.

The current model of punishment oftentimes does not address the underlying issues or attempt to help a person who shoplifts under these situations. In Illinois, the penalties under 720 ilcs 5/16-25 are not designed to help defendants in overcoming their habit. Rather, for an offense that involves less than $300, the defendant may be charged with a class A misdemeanor and, if convicted, given a fine up to $2500 and a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail. For thefts totaling more than $300 the defendant will be charged with felony retail theft, a felony which carries a a sentence ranging from 1-15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Whether a person is charged with misdemeanor or felony theft, shoplifting/retail theft is prosecuted very seriously in Illinois but there are alternative solutions to jail time or criminal convictions. A conviction can have very serious consequences on a person’s current and future employment opportunities.

If you or a loved on is facing a retail theft or shoplifting charge in Illinois, contact The Law Office of Purav Bhatt at 773-791-9682 to discuss your case and options.

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