Articles Posted in Theft/Retail Theft

Kane-County-Drug-Crime-300x226Last week, Kane County State’s Attorney, Joe McMahon, reported that Kane County Prosecutors have seen a rise in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County in the first six months of this year compared to last year. McMahon reports that felony filings are up 15.7% compared to the same period last year. The increase in criminal cases in Kane County is happening with misdemeanor and traffic cases as well. In the first six months of 2017, 1,247 new felony cases were filed. During the same period last year, 1,078 cases were filed. Aurora, the largest city in Kane County, has seen a drop in the number of new felony cases. Most criminal cases in Kane County come from Aurora. The Village of Carpentersville has seen a rise in the number of Retail Theft cases. Carpentersville police attribute this to the opening of a new Walmart in Carpentersville. Elgin, the second largest city in Kane County, has seen a rise in violent crimes. McMahon is concerned with the increase in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County since the number of criminal cases filed increased in 2016 as well.

In 2016, McMahon talked about the inability of authorities to make a dent in the number of Domestic Battery, or Domestic Violence cases filed in Kane County. In 2016, McMahon reported that of the almost 5,700 misdemeanor cases filed in Kane County in 2015, 1,219 involved Domestic Battery, or Domestic Violence charges. 200 Aggravated Domestic Battery felony charges were filed in Kane County in 2015. In the same 2016 discussion, McMahon talked about the impact that the heroin problem is having on Kane County. McMahon echoed his concerns about the heroin problem in Kane County last week when he announced an increase in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County. Last week, McMahon stated that drug-related cases, “continue to be a serious problem.”

This morning, the Chicago Tribune is reporting about efforts that police departments throughout the State of Illinois are taking in an attempt to get drug users into drug treatment. Many local police agencies are trying to implement a program started by the police in Glocester Massachusetts a few years ago. The programs are commonly referred to as “Safe Passage.” If people walk into a police station and give up their drugs and ask for help, instead of placing them under arrest, the police will dispose of the drugs without filing criminal charges and will place them in drug rehab programs. More and more police agencies in Illinois are trying to do something like this with varying results. Authorities in Dixon Illinois report great success with their program. Dixon police report that 170 people have been placed into rehab with this program. More than half of the people placed in drug rehab have successfully completed their drug treatment. Dixon police report a 39% decrease in the number of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases filed.

TheftThis is one of the more common questions that I get asked when people call me wanting advice about how to deal with a situation like this.  Many people think that as long as it’s not the police asking questions, they have nothing to worry about.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  If your employer is suspecting that you stole something and they want you to come in to the office to discuss the matter, you need to be aware of how dangerous this situation can be.  This situation can be more dangerous than talking to the police.  Let me explain why.

Everybody watches TV shows involving police criminal investigations.  Everyone is aware of terms like “probable cause”, “search warrant”, “arrest warrant”, and “Miranda Rights”.  But most people do not truly appreciate exactly what these terms mean in the real world.  What happens on TV does not always reflect how the real world operates. What we commonly refer to as our constitutional rights only apply to when the government is acting against us.  In other words, if the police want to ask you questions and you are not free to leave, the police must read you your Miranda warnings.  The police must let you know that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you in court.  They also must inform you that you have a right to an attorney and if you can’t afford one they will provide one for you for free.  In order for questioning to continue, you have to waive your Miranda rights.  If the police want to search your vehicle or your desk at work, they need a search warrant or your permission.  But these rights do not apply to your employer or to your employer’s security agents, unless you work for the state, local or federal government.  Your employer is not the government.  The security agents work for your employer and not for the government. So, when your employer wants to ask you questions about a possible theft, they don’t have to read you your Miranda Rights.  When your employer wants to search your desk at work they don’t need a search warrant nor do they need your permission.

Many people falsely believe that since their employer and their security agents did not read them their rights then anything they say to the employer and their security agents cannot be used against them in court. Again, this would be a mistake.  Many Theft cases that I have handled were developed using information gathered by store security and loss prevention agents.  With many of those cases it was obvious that the police allowed the employer’s security agents to gather all of the evidence before the police got involved.  That’s because the police knew that it will be much easier for the prosecutor to use the evidence that was gathered by private security because private security is not hindered by the Constitution.  If you talk to your employer and their security agents and make a statement the prosecutor does not have to show that you waived your Miranda Rights when you made that statement.  Miranda does not apply to your employer and their security agents.  In many ways, this is very unfair.  If your employer asks you to come into the office and talk about a Theft investigation involving you, you know that if you do not show up to that meeting, you will probably lose your job.  And, as you try to keep your job, you may try to talk yourself out of it without realizing that you’re only digging a deeper hole for yourself.

ArrestThis is a very frequent question that I get from people that call me. They want to know how the police can arrest them without any evidence that they did anything wrong. Just because you were arrested by the police and charged with a crime does not mean that you are guilty. An arrest and a criminal charge is just an allegation. The police officer who arrested you, and the prosecutor that charged you with a crime, believe that you did something wrong. Now they must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court. There’s several things that you can do to make it more difficult for the police and the prosecutors to prove you guilty in court. Let’s talk about some of the things that you can do to help your case.

First, let’s talk about something you should not do. You should not resist the police and give them a tough time. There’s no benefit to arguing with the police officer and making their job difficult. All that can do is make the police officer angry and cause them to be a little tougher on you than they might otherwise be. In addition, don’t forget that the police officer is armed with a gun. If the police officer feels threatened, he may use physical force against you which never ends in a good way. If you resist a police officer you could be charged with Resisting a Peace Officer, or if you disobey a police officer’s instructions, you could be charged with Obstructing a Peace Officer.  While both charges are misdemeanors, they are serious misdemeanors because they carry mandatory punishments which could include mandatory community service or even jail time. Simply pulling away from a police officer while they are trying to place handcuffs on you, or trying to run away from a police officer who is trying to place you under arrest, could result in serious criminal charges. Those criminal charges could stick even if you are ultimately found not guilty of the crime that you were originally arrested and charged with. Plus, if you cooperate with the police officer, the officer may go a little easy on you and may even decide not to arrest you, or even charge you with a crime if they are not sure that you did anything wrong.  Even if the police officer arrests you and charges you with a crime, the fact that you cooperated with the police officer and did not give them a hard time could help you when it comes to talking to the prosecutor who is handling your case in court. The prosecutor is much more likely to go easy on you if the police officer tells them that you cooperated with them and did not give them a hard time.

The next piece of advice that I commonly give clients is to exercise their constitutional right to remain silent. I commonly see people who are arrested trying to talk themselves out of it. It almost always ends up being a bad move. If a police officer thinks that you did something wrong, you can talk to them until you are blue in the face and you will not be able to stop them from arresting you. For instance, if a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you have been drinking and the officer believes that you are drunk, the officer will take you down to the police station so that you can take a breathalyzer test. No amount of arguing and pleading with the police officer will change anything. What is more likely is that during the course of trying to convince the police officer that you should not be arrested, you are likely to say something to the police officer that could be used against you later on in court. An example is if you tell the police officer that you only had a couple of drinks and that you are fine to drive. Admitting that you have been drinking can be used against you in court later on to prove that you are guilty of a DUI.

Retail-TheftThe Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, has announced that her office will stop prosecuting cases involving people charged with driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license based on a financial reason, such as failure to pay parking tickets. tolls or child support.  The decision to do this is based on a lack of funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office which has left the office with not enough prosecutors to handle the criminal prosecutions in Cook County.  This does not mean that these cases will go away in Cook County.  Individual towns, cities and villages will be allowed to prosecute these cases themselves. This could mean a rise in the number of cases being charged as Municipal Violations.  Each city, town, and village can set up their own administrative process which involves Hearing Officers and attorneys hired by the towns and Villages, that collect fines for violations.  The standard of proof in a Municipal Ordinance Violation case is much lower than in a criminal case and the potential punishment is a monetary fine and not jail time.

Another change announced by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has to do with charging people involved in serious car crashes while their licenses were suspended or revoked for financial reasons. Currently, if someone is involved in a serious car accident and their license is suspended, they could be charged with a felony if they have one previous conviction for driving with a suspended license.  The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced that they will not charge a driver with a felony unless they have at least five previous convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license.  This only applies if the suspension or revocation is based on a financial reason.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office points out that the office is operating with 30% less funding than 10 years ago.  The decision to stop prosecuting suspended and revoked license cases based on financial reasons will help free up some prosecutors to help prosecute more serious criminal cases.  There’s at least 2 Courtrooms at the Daley Center that handle cases like this.  By declining to prosecute cases like this, the prosecutors assigned to those courtrooms will be reassigned to other courtrooms and courthouses.

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.

Municipal-ViolationJust like State laws create State crimes, and Federal laws create Federal crimes, individual towns, cities and villages also create laws, called Municipal Ordinances, which can give rise to charges alleging a violation of a Municipal Ordinance.  I’ve been handling criminal cases for the past 25 years throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County.  I’ve noticed a dramatic rise in the number of Municipal Ordinance Violation cases throughout all of these counties. Many cities, towns and villages have established their own Municipal Violation Ordinance courts which mainly impose monetary civil penalties upon violators that have become big sources of revenue for these municipalities.  I’m seeing more and more cases being charged as Municipal Ordinance Violations rather than criminal cases in Circuit Court. This is especially true in DuPage County and Kane County.

The rise in the number of Municipal Ordinance Violation cases has led to more and more clients calling me and asking me to explain what a Municipal Ordinance Violation is and what will happen when they appear in Court. Perhaps the most common question I get from clients is whether they need to hire a lawyer to handle their Municipal Violation Case.  My advice is that you should have a lawyer representing you for a Municipal Violation Case.  There’s several reasons for that so let me explain to you why you should have a lawyer with you for your Municipal Ordinance Violation case.

The consequences of being found guilty, or liable, for a Municipal Ordinance Violation are much less severe than the criminal penalties for a misdemeanor or a felony under state law.  Typically, the consequences for a Municipal Violation involve paying a civil penalty, or a fine.  A Municipal Ordinance Violation is generally not considered a criminal case.  However, some of the conduct that could give rise to a Municipal Ordinance Violation charge can also be enough to charge you with a misdemeanor.  For instance, if you shoplift from a store, the police can charge you with a Retail Theft misdemeanor.  The police can also charge you with a Retail Theft under the Municipal Ordinance of the town in which the shoplifting occurred.  This is a choice that’s made by the police officer.  So, if you try to shoplift and you receive a Municipal Ordinance violation ticket, instead of going to the Circuit Court for your case, you will have to go to the Village City Hall for a hearing before a Hearing Officer.

Retail-Theft

This is a common question that I am frequently asked by clients.  The short answer is no, but let me explain further.

If you are under criminal investigation for anything, whether you are being investigated for a Retail Theft by store security or by the police, you are under no legal obligation to cooperate with them.  This includes answering their questions.

Let’s talk about the police.  If you are being questioned by the police, the law provides you with some protections.  If you are in custody and the police start asking you questions the law provides that they must advise you of your Miranda Rights.  You are in custody when you are not free to leave.  If you are in custody and the police want to question you, they must inform you that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you in court.  They must also inform you that you have a right to a lawyer and that if you cannot afford a lawyer they will provide one for you for free.  If you waive your right to remain silent, then the police can use anything you say to them against you in Court.