The Different Ways You Can Be Guilty of a Retail Theft in Illinois

Retail-TheftRetail Theft, commonly known as shoplifting, is a very serious crime in Illinois. In addition to the criminal penalties associated with a Retail Theft case, a prospective employer that finds a Retail Theft case in a background search could use it against you to deny you employment. Some employers conduct background searches. If your current employer finds out about a Retail Theft arrest, your employer may fire you. If you try to lease an apartment and a landlord conducts a background search, that landlord may turn down your lease application.

There are several ways that you could be guilty of a Retail Theft.  You could be guilty of a Retail Theft by doing more than just walking out of the store with merchandise that you did not pay for.  I want to talk a little bit about different ways that you can be guilty of Retail Theft.

False Returns:  This happens when you present a fake receipt or a gift card in which you claim to own merchandise that you are returning to the store in return for cash, credit, or a gift card.

Under-Ringing:  I have seen this happen in two ways. First is when a cashier at a store, who is working hand-in-hand with a shopper, charges less than the full retail value of the merchandise.  When this happens, the cashier can be charged with a Retail Theft.  The shopper can also be charged with a Retail Theft if the prosecutor can prove that the shopper was involved in the crime.  The second way I have seen this happen is when a customer fails to scan an item at the self-checkout counter.  I have seen a rise in the number of Retail Theft cases involving a self -checkout counter.  Customers do not realize that store security is conducting constant surveillance at self-checkout counters.

Changing Price Tags:  Another common type of Retail Theft occurs when a customer changes the price tag of one item for another.  Usually, the price tag of the item brought up to the register is changed to a lower price.

Rentals-Keeping Property Too Long:  If you are renting merchandise, such as a television set, and you keep the property beyond the time that you were supposed to return it, you can be charged with a Retail Theft.  You must return the property within 10 days of receiving written notice or else you could be charged with a Retail Theft. The only proof needed in court is the written agreement and the written notice demanding return of the item.

Starting in 2011, the threshold for a misdemeanor to a felony Retail Theft was dropped from $300 to $150.  So, under current Illinois state law, if the aggregate value of the goods stolen was under $150, you could be charged with a misdemeanor Retail Theft.  A misdemeanor Retail Theft carries a possible penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine up to $2,500.  If the aggregate value of the property is over $150 you can be charged with a Class 4 Felony. A Class 4 felony Retail Theft  carries a potential punishment of one to three years in prison. “Aggregate Value” means the total value of the property.  So, if you took 10 items then the value of all items taken together will be added up to determine the value.

In addition to the criminal penalties associated with a Retail Theft, the store also has the right under Illinois law to go after you for a Civil Penalty. The Civil Penalty is a right that they have which is separate and distinct from the criminal penalty. If you pay the Civil Penalty, it does not mean that the criminal case will go away. The Civil Penalty is a monetary fine that the store and their attorneys have a right to go after you for. The Civil Penalty cannot exceed $1,000 and is supposed to cover the store’s costs and their expenses. It does not matter if you actually got away with taking the merchandise. The mere fact that you tried to steal something from a retail establishment in Illinois gives them the right to go after you for this Civil Penalty.

Chicago Retail Theft Lawyer, James Dimeas, has been handling Retail Theft cases throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County for 25 years.  If you have a Retail Theft case you can contact James Dimeas anytime to discuss your case.  James Dimeas can always be reached at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Retail Theft Statute:  720 ILCS 5/16-25.