Recently, the Chicago Tribune police blotter detailed the arrest of multiple individuals who were subsequently charged with retail theft. The instances and merchandise involved may seem minor, but those charged may quickly realize that retail theft is a serious offense with criminal, civil, and economic consequences that should not be taken lightly.
Those convicted of the theft crimes may suffer damaging consequences, not only legally, but in their professional careers. Many employers turn away applicants who have retail theft convictions, thus impairing the ability to maintain or move up in an occupation.
First, it is important to understand that retail theft is a comprehensive crime. The law specifies eight ways to commit retail theft in Illinois, all of which require that the person act knowingly with the intent of depriving the merchant of possession or of the full retail value of the merchandise. An individual can be charged with retail theft if they:
- Steal goods or property from a retail establishment;
- Alter an item’s price tag and attempt to buy that item at less than the full retail value;
- Transfer a product into the packaging of a lower-priced product;
- Ring up the item for less than the full retail value;
- Remove a shopping cart from a store’s premises without the merchant’s consent;
- Misrepresent themselves as the lawful owner of merchandise (usually with a receipt or gift card) in exchange for money or merchandise credit;
- Use a theft detection shielding device; or
- Exert unauthorized control over the owner’s property.
Second, note that the punishment depends on the value of the merchandise. If valued at less than $300, the law considers the theft a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,500 fine and/or up to a year in prison. A second or subsequent offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a $25,000 fine and/or one to three years in prison. If the merchandise is valued at more than $300, the law considers the theft a Class 3 felony, punishable by a $25,000 fine and/or two to five years in prison.
Third, keep in mind that offenders can be held civilly liable to the merchant for actual damages (the full retail value of the merchandise), and may be forced to pay a fine of $100 to $1,000, plus attorney’s fees and other court costs.
Theft by Emergency Exit
The law already considers retail theft a serious offense; it is even more serious if the offender leaves through an emergency exit. A person commits theft by emergency exit if he or she facilitates the retail theft by leaving the store through a designated emergency exit. Punishment again depends on the value of the merchandise. If the merchandise value is less than $300, the law categorizes the crime as a Class 4 felony. If the merchandise value exceeds $300, the law categorizes the crime as a Class 2 felony, punishable by a $25,000 fine and/or three to seven years in prison.
These penalties are severe, which is why you need experienced attorneys on your case. Our skilled Illinois defense attorneys have years of experience handling retail theft crimes. Contact us today if you have been charged with committing retail theft.