Illinois Courts Don’t Take Shoplifting Lightly

Shoplifting is a crime. Each year, retail establishments lose billions of dollars in merchandise to shoplifters, not to mention the amount of money they spend on security devices, guards and cameras. If you are facing shoplifting charges, you may already know these facts.

Some steal because they need something they can’t afford to purchase. Others steal for the fun or compulsion. Still others are wrongly accused of stealing. Whatever the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you may be fearful of the consequences of a conviction, especially if the value of the merchandise in question is more than $300.

Proposed changes to the law

Illinois law considers theft of property worth more than $300 a Class 3 felony. In addition to theft, class 3 felonies also include aggravated battery, which is when someone assaults another to the point of causing disability or disfigurement. In other words, if a court convicts you of stealing merchandise worth $300, you could receive the same sentence as someone convicted of ruthlessly inflicting devastating physical harm on another human being.

If a court convicts you, your sentence for a Class 3 felony may be two to five years in prison. Some in the state legislature believe this is too harsh a punishment for a $300 theft, and they are working to raise the minimum amount for a felony charge. In fact, Rep. Elgie Sims, Jr. suggests raising the limit for felony theft to $2,000. Rep. Justin Slaughter believes the limit should be $2,500. Anything under that amount would be a misdemeanor.

State commission lends its support

The bills these lawmakers have introduced support recommendations the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing offered last year, suggesting a $2,000 minimum for a felony theft charge.

Additionally, if you already have a theft conviction on your record, current law allows prosecutors to raise a misdemeanor theft to felony level. However, the commission wants state legislators to consider laws that will stop misdemeanors from becoming felonies just because of prior convictions.

Avoiding a felony conviction

Of course, retailers do not favor changes in the law, protesting that shoplifting incidents continue to rise across the country. Nevertheless, you probably know the damage a felony conviction can do to your future. You will likely struggle for the rest of your life trying to find meaningful employment, housing and education. You may spend years living in a cycle of poverty and need because of the stigma of a felony.

Avoiding these negative consequences is likely your primary concern, and seeking the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney may provide you with a decided advantage.