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Shoplifting Penalties and Defenses In Illinois

 Posted on June 19, 2020 in Criminal Law

Shoplifting from a big box store can seem like a victimless crime, but the crime of retail theft can have significant penalties in Illinois. Whether you slip some electronics in your purse or you alter a price tag to get an item for cheaper, it doesn’t take much for you to face stiff shoplifting charges. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the penalties for shoplifting, and we cover some of the common defenses to the crime in Illinois.

Shoplifting Penalties In Illinois

We dive into the full extent of shoplifting penalties on this page, but we’ll cover a simplified version on this page as well. Basically, your shoplifting charge and potential penalties depends on the value of the goods you are alleged to have stolen. The bar for charges to be upgraded to a felony is also quite low in Illinois. In fact, we’re one of only six states that bring felony charges for instances where less than $500 worth of merchandise is stolen.

First time offenders who are alleged to have taken merchandise valued at under $300 may face a misdemeanor charge, but if you have a previous retail theft conviction, if you used an emergency exit to aid in the theft or if the goods are worth more than $300, you can face felony charges

Aside from fines and potential jail time, those convicted of retail theft in Illinois could be forced to pay fees equal to the full value of the merchandise, and they may have to cover the court costs and attorney fees for both sides. Needless to say, it can get expensive real quick if you’ve been convicted of shoplifting in Illinois.

Shoplifting Defenses In Illinois

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in Illinois, don’t just plead guilty and hope the judge will go easy on you. There are plenty of defense avenues you can pursue, and all of them can help cast doubts over your guilt. While not all of these defenses may work for your specific scenario, some potential avenues for a shoplifting defense that we’ll consider for your case include:

  • Arguing that you did not knowingly leave the store with the unpaid merchandise.
  • Arguing that the cashier simply failed to ring up the merchandise at the counter.
  • Arguing that you had not yet left the store, and therefore the alleged crime had not yet taken place.
  • Arguing that the store mislabeled the item and that you weren’t the one who altered the price tag.
  • Arguing that you had already purchased the item or that you believed you were rightfully entitled to the merchandise.
  • Arguing that you were impaired and couldn’t consciously commit the crime (intoxication, dementia, etc.)
  • Arguing that there was no intent to steal the item.

The last point is key, because for shoplifting to have occurred, you must intend to commit the crime. If you were distracted by an unruly child or you accidentally left an item on the underside of your cart that didn’t get rung up and you left the building, a good lawyer can get the charges dropped. However, remember that these stores will have camera footage, so if it looks like you’re trying to position items so that they could conveniently be missed or “forgotten” about, you could be found guilty in court.

Illinois takes shoplifting charges seriously, and you need to do the same by hiring a lawyer to help fight your case. We’ve gotten numerous retail theft cases dropped for our clients in the past, and we can do the same for you. For more information or to set up a free strategy session, reach out to Appelman Law today.

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