Chicago Retail Theft Lawyer
Shoplifting–or retail theft, as it is known under Illinois law–is a serious crime. Retails stores lose millions of dollars every year to retail theft, so the authorities are under pressure to punish and deter offenders with harsh penalties. Fortunately, an experienced Chicago shoplifting attorney may be able to prove your innocence through decisive action and skillful advocacy. And when an acquittal in your case is unlikely, your lawyer can take steps to ensure that you avoid the harshest consequences of a conviction.
How Does Illinois Law Define Shoplifting?
The definition and penalties for retail theft are set out in 720 ILCS 5/16-25, which states that it is illegal to do any of the following with the intent of depriving a merchant of the full retail value of a product:
- Take merchandise from a retail store without paying for it
- Alter or remove price tags
- Switch goods from one container to another
- “Under-ring” an item if you are a store employee
- Use a theft-detection shielding device
- Return a product that you did not pay for
- Keep a leased or rented product past its date of return.
If you get caught beyond the cash register with one of the store’s products concealed on your person, the trier of fact–whether a judge or a jury–may conclude that you had the criminal intent to shoplift.
What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in Illinois?
The penalty you might receive for a retail theft conviction will depend on the value of the goods that you allegedly stole, whether you used an emergency exit, and whether you have a prior conviction:
When the value of the products is less than $300, you may receive any of the following penalties:
- Class A misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in jail and fines of up to $2,500
- Class 4 felony involving a 1 to 3-year prison sentence and fines reaching $25,000 if you used an emergency exit to escape, OR if this is your second conviction
- Class 3 felony with a possible 2 to 5-year sentence and fines of up to $25,000 if you used an emergency exit AND this is your second conviction.
When the value of the goods you allegedly stole exceeds $300, the court may sentence you as following:
- Class 3 felony
- Class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison and possible fines reaching $25,000 if you used the store’s emergency exit to get away.
To calculate the value of the products, the court may consider the total amount of goods you stole over the course of 1 year.
How Can I Defend Against my Shoplifting Charges?
Your criminal defense attorney’s first task will be to overview all of the evidence that the prosecutor intends to use against you. Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of this evidence, your Chicago retail theft lawyer will determine the best defense strategy available to you. In your case, it may be possible to have the charges dismissed or to prove your innocence when the prosecutor tries to use questionable evidence, such as:
- Inconclusive video surveillance
- Testimony from loss prevention officers (LPOs) that contradicts the video surveillance
- Testimony of LPOs who were not properly trained, or who acted inappropriately.
But when the prosecutor’s evidence strongly points to your guilt, it may be best to attempt to mitigate the effects of your conviction–even if you are innocent. Instead of facing the prospect of a loss after an expensive trial, it may be in your best interest to work with the prosecutor. This is an especially attractive option if you’re first-time offenders. The prosecutor may even drop your charges if you cooperate, accept to pay back the store and perform community service.
Even if you don’t qualify for a first offender or deferred prosecution program, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a good plea bargain for you. If you take steps on your own to make things right, such as paying back the store, seeking counseling and performing community service, you will be in a very good position to receive lenient treatment by the prosecutor and the judge.
Of course, our priority is to prove your innocence. But when this is not an option, O’Meara Law, LLC will work hard to help you obtain the next best thing–deferred prosecution or a light sentence. To learn more about what options may be available in your case, call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.