Retail theft is a significant issue in Illinois and nationwide. As such is the case, state lawmakers have defined what makes up a shoplifting offense and have determined punishments that they feel are acceptable if the court convicts you on a retail theft charge.
How does the state of Illinois define retail theft? What are the potential punishments? Is there any way to fight this type of charge?
According to the state of Illinois, retail theft is the taking of merchandise with the intent to rob a merchant of its full value. Key word here, as it is in any criminal defense case, is intent.
The state goes even further and gives specific situations that it defines as shoplifting. There are many, but a few include:
- Transferring a product to another container
- Removing an item from a store without paying
- Removing or altering price tags
- Under-ringing items at the register
Again, a person must have done any of these things with intent in order for a prosecuting attorney to secure a conviction. Proving intent can be a difficult job.
When it comes to potential penalties, the value of the item taken and the number of offenses on your record will determine punishment severity. In Illinois, shoplifting penalties are broken down into two categories: under $300 and over $300.
If charged with taking less than $300 in merchandise, a first-time offense is a misdemeanor charge and is punishable by up to nearly one year in prison and fines. Subsequent offenses, however, are subject to felony charges and are punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and fines up to $25,000.
If charged with taking more than $300 in merchandise, this is a felony offense and is punishable by up to five years in prison and hefty fines. If you remove property through an emergency exit door, regardless of its value, this is a felony offense that is subject to three to seven years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
When fighting a shoplifting charge, there may be various defense options available to you. Some of these include:
- Mistake of fact
- Return of property
- Lack of intent
- Other mental impairment
In order to decide which defense strategy best suits your needs, your criminal defense attorney will first have to review the facts of your case. At the end of the day, fighting a shoplifting charge can be a bit of a challenge, but with the right help on your side, you can pursue an appropriate legal remedy.