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The Ins and Outs of Anti-Shoplifting Law in Illinois

Posted on in Criminal Defense

illinois shoplifting lawyerApproximately one tenth of adults in the United States admit to shoplifting something in their lives. Only a small fraction of these individuals get caught, but when they do the consequences are often severe enough to set an example. For those charged with shoplifting, the ordeal can be a humiliating and potentially reputation-tarnishing experience.

Illinois legislators define shoplifting in a way that is broader than some may realize. According to the statute, shoplifting means not only intentionally concealing and carrying merchandise out of the store, but also intentionally:

  • Switching price tags on merchandise to make the desired item ring up cheaper at check out;
  • Switching packaging of merchandise to put the desired item in a package that would ring up    cheaper at the register;
  • For a retail employee, ringing up an item at a price cheaper than the retail price;
  • Removing a shopping cart from the premises;
  • Attempting to exchange merchandise that you haven’t bought from the store for a refund store credit or other benefit; and
  • Failing to return certain rental property to the owner.

Illinois law creates a separate charge with a heightened penalty for stealing merchandise and leaving through an emergency exit. Illinois’s anti-shoplifting law also imposes a harsher penalty for shoplifting by using a device that deactivates anti-theft sensors.

Shoplifting Q & A

When exactly does holding an unpurchased item in a store become shoplifting?

Strictly speaking, the crime is not completed until the person leaves the property with the stolen merchandise. However under Illinois law, a judge may consider the shoplifting crime to have taken place earlier, at the point when a person conceals unpaid merchandise and carries it past the last point of sale, if the accused individual cannot present sufficient evidence of why she passed the point of sale without paying.

What rights do I have as someone who has been accused of shoplifting?

Immediately after the alleged shoplifting occurs, the merchandiser or its agent has a right to detain you for a reasonable amount of time in a reasonable manner so the merchandiser may ask questions and keep you until the police arrive. You have a right to remain free of unreasonable or excessive force. You also have a right to refrain from participating in the merchandiser’s questioning and are not obligated to sign any document the merchandiser requests you sign. A trusted defense attorney can tell you more about your rights in this area.

What are the penalties for shoplifting?

Upon conviction for shoplifting the individual can be held liable both criminally and civilly. Criminal penalties vary depending on the value of the property stolen, the method of stealing the property, and whether the offender has any prior offenses. For a first time offender, if the stolen merchandise equals $300 or less she may be charged with Class A misdemeanor. If the stolen merchandise is worth more than $300, she may be charged with a Class 3 felony if it is a first offense. In cases where an individual steals property by exiting through an emergency exit, the offense is increased to a Class 4, Class 3 or Class 2 felony. It may be possible to have some shoplifting convictions expunged from one’s criminal record depending on individual circumstances of each case.

In addition to facing criminal penalties, which could include imprisonment, an individual convicted of shoplifting may also be ordered to pay the retailer the cost of merchandise stolen, plus legal costs, plus an additional penalty of between $100 and $1000.

Can a minor be charged with shoplifting?

Illinois anti-retail theft statute only applies to adults age 18 or older. When a minor shoplifts, the parent or guardian may be civilly liable for the cost of merchandise stolen, plus a penalty and legal costs.

If you or a loved one has been accused of shoplifting, attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. have experience in this particular area of criminal defense in Cook and DuPage Counties. Contact Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. today by phone at 630-472-9700 today.

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