Everybody knows that if you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting, you will be facing serious criminal penalties that could have serious implications for your future. How many people are surprised to find out that in addition to the criminal implications of a Retail Theft, they will probably soon be facing a potential Civil Penalty. This part of a Retail Theft arrest is not well understood by clients. Many clients mistakenly believe that what happens in one aspect of a Retail Theft case will affect the other aspect of the Retail Theft case. In other words, many people believe that if they just pay the Civil Penalty then the criminal case will be dismissed. This is not how things work and people need to understand what the Civil Penalty is and how it relates to a Retail Theft.
Most people charged with a Retail Theft will be facing a Class A Misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a Retail Theft depends on the value of the item(s) that you stole, or attempted to steal. The cut-off between a Misdemeanor and a Felony officially is $300. If the aggregate value of the items is $300 or less, you will be charged with a Misdemeanor. If the aggregate value of the item(s) is $300 or more, you may be charged with a Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor conviction for a Retail Theft carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Most Felony Retail Theft charges are Class 4 Felonies in Illinois. A Class 4 Felony charge for Retail Theft in Illinois carries a maximum punishment of one to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
In the past few years I have seen a drastic increase in the number of Retail Theft cases charged as a Municipal Ordinance Violations. Almost every City, Town, and Village has set up a Municipal Violation court system that moves cases from the County Criminal Court to an Administrative Municipal Ordinance Violation Court that is controlled by the Town or the Village in which the offense occurred. The Judge who presides over the case is an Administrative Law Judge who is employed by the municipality. Many times the Administrative Law is a full-time employee of the town. The standard of proof in a Municipal Court is much lower than in a Criminal Court. A Municipal Ordinance Violation is a civil matter between you and the municipality. The Rules of Evidence are relaxed and the penalties that can be imposed by an Administrative Law Judge in a Municipal Court are civil in nature. In other words, the penalties are monetary as opposed to Criminal. However, depending on the County, the Town, and the facts and circumstances of your arrest, the Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. If you were fingerprinted, your Retail Theft may appear in a background search. Some Counties will put your case in the Court computer system which could be found in a background search. Many employers will not hire someone if they suspect that the prospective employee may steal from them. Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Retail Theft lawyer if you receive a Municipal Ordinance Violation. An experienced Retail Theft attorney will know whether there’s a possibility that a Retail Theft Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. You cannot simply assume that a Municipal Ordinance Violation for Shoplifting will not appear on a background search.