Articles Posted in Theft/Retail Theft

Special-Conditions-of-Bond-300x200I often receive phone calls from clients asking me if they can go back home after they are released from jail or whether they can contact their boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse after being released from jail. I usually tell those clients to come to my office and bring all of the papers that were given to them when they were released from jail. It is very important to keep all of your papers with you if you are arrested and released by the Police so that you may appear for court. You should bring all of your paperwork with you when you are meeting with your lawyer.

Typical Conditions of Bond

If you are arrested and released on Bond, you will be required to comply with certain requirements. In Illinois, the typical conditions that will apply to you if you are released on Bond are as follows:

Search-Warrant-300x200In criminal cases, it is common for the prosecution to seek to admit into evidence things that were seized by the police as a result of the search of a residence. One of the first things that a criminal defense attorney does in a criminal case involving the search of a house is to determine whether the evidence seized by the police can be admitted in court.

If the court is convinced that the search of your home was conducted without a Search Warrant, and that none of the recognized exceptions were present, then the search would be considered unreasonable and all of the evidence seized as a result of the search would not be admissible in Court.

As a general rule, the police are required to obtain a Search Warrant if they want to search your home. If the police obtained a Search Warrant, then the likelihood of convincing a Court that the evidence should not be admissible is very low. But if the police searched your home without a warrant, then your lawyer will have a basis to challenge the admission of the evidence in court.

Shoplifting-300x226This morning I spoke to a client who made it out of a local store last night after shoplifting a couple of items without getting caught. The client wanted to know whether they could still be arrested for shoplifting and charged with a Retail Theft even though they were not caught inside the store. The client wanted to know how long they had to arrest him and charged him with a Retail Theft and what they should do if they were contacted by the police.

In all likelihood, if you made it out of the store without getting caught for shoplifting, it is unlikely that you will be arrested for the Retail Theft. However, just because you made it out of the store does not mean you’re out of the woods. Virtually every major retailer has security cameras inside their stores. I have had several cases in which my clients were arrested and charged with a Retail Theft days and weeks after the incident after they were identified on a security camera. I recently had a client that was arrested for a Retail Theft after a detective found a security video of the license plate number on my clients car as he was leaving the parking lot of the store immediately after the Retail Theft had occurred. The detective was able to locate my client after they checked the license plate number with the Secretary of State.

What Do I Do If The Police Contact Me About the Retail Theft?

Arrested-300x226A common question I get from clients is whether they will have to go to jail if they are arrested by the police. Yesterday, I received a telephone call from a prospective client who was caught shoplifting at a local Target. When he was approached by store security, he ran out of the store and jumped into his vehicle and left the store. He noticed the security guards chase him to his car and realized that they probably had his license plate number. The next day he spoke to a police officer who told him that they they have him on video committing the crime and leaving the store and would be charging him with a Retail Theft. He wanted to know whether he would go to jail if he turned himself in as the police had asked him to. This is a common question I get from people calling me and asking for my advice. Many people do not realize what happens when they are arrested and what their rights are when they are in the custody of the police and are not free to leave.

How Long Can the Police Hold Me Before Charging Me or Releasing Me?

As a general rule, the police can hold you in the police station for up to 48 hours before releasing you or charging you with a crime. This is based on a 1991 US Supreme Court case that established this general rule. However, in that same case, the Supreme Court stated that suspects can be held at the police station for a longer period of time if there is “extraordinary circumstances.” It is the policy of the Chicago Police to hold suspects for up to 48 hours before releasing them or charging them with a crime. Joliet police also have a similar 48-hour strict deadline. Police in Elgin and Waukegan consider 72-hours to be their deadline. What constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” is the subject of debate among legal circles and is unsettled by the courts. However, the Supreme Court has held that holding a suspect in custody for the purpose of gathering additional evidence is unconstitutional. Different police agencies and police departments have their own policies. For instance, police in Waukegan will hold a suspect for up to 72 hours but only after they receive approval from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Police-Interrogation-300x200I recently met with a client whose son had been questioned by the police at the police station and charged with a Retail Theft. The client was complaining that the police questioned her son at the police station without providing a lawyer for him and without allowing her to be present with her son. She wanted to know whether the police could question her son without her being present. Here’s what I told her:

What is Considered a Minor in the Criminal Justice System?

As with many other things, the criminal justice system has different definitions for common terms than most people realize. For instance, what is considered insane by the medical profession is different than what the criminal law defines as insane. The same applies to what is commonly considered to be a minor and what is commonly considered to be an adult. In the real world, 18 years old is the cut-off between being a minor and being an adult. But under the criminal law, whether you are treated as a juvenile, or minor, or an adult, depends on whether you are being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, you will be considered an adult if you were 17 years or older when the offense occurred. For felony offenses, you will be considered an adult if the offense occurred when you were 16 years or older.

file221258166932-300x225Everybody 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.

Retail TheftThis is one of the most common questions I get asked by people that have been arrested and charged with a Retail Theft. When I get asked that question, that’s when I start asking questions. Because whether or not they committed a Retail Theft depends on the specific facts of their case.  Most of the time they tell me that they forgot to pay for an item that they had mistakenly placed in their purse or in a bag. Some people tell me that their child took an item and hid it from them without them knowing. Other people tell me they tried on a piece of jewelry and forgot to take it off. Whatever the explanation is, many of them tell me that they don’t understand how they could be charged with stealing something from a store if they did not physically leave the store when they were stopped by security.

Like many other things having to do with the legal system, there is a difference between what is commonly considered to be Retail Theft, and what the law considers to be a Retail Theft. Retail Theft is commonly referred to as shoplifting.  You do not have to get out of the store with the item in order to be guilty of a Retail Theft in Illinois. If the state is able to prove that you took something from a store with the intent to take that item without paying for it, that’s enough to prove that you are guilty of a Retail Theft. Taking something doesn’t mean that you walked out of the store with it, taking means that you took it from the shelf or the place where it was and took possession of it with the intention of not paying for it.

There’s many ways that the state can prove that you took something with the intent to not pay for it. In my 24 years of experience I cannot even begin to count the number of ways that the state has been able to prove this in cases that I have handled. Sometimes there is a loss prevention agent who testifies that they saw my client put something in their pocket. I’ve had cases where video surveillance shows my client switching price tags or placing items in their pocket or in their jacket and then walking past the cash register and not paying for the items that they had taken. Once you walk past the last place of purchase, which is basically the cash register, without paying for the goods, then you have committed a Retail Theft.

Retail-TheftClients that are charged with Retail Theft frequently call me a few weeks after they are arrested and tell me that they received a letter from the store’s lawyers demanding money.  Sometimes, they receive this letter even if they haven’t been criminally charged for the Shoplifting. They usually have two questions when they receive that letter.  The first question is whether this means that if they pay the amount they are asking for will that mean that their case is dismissed?  The second question is whether they have to pay the amount they are demanding.  I will explain to you what I tell them and what that letter means.

When you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting in Illinois, this means that you have violated the criminal law of the State of Illinois. You will be assigned a court date and you will have to go to court to answer to the criminal charges. Under Illinois Law, that same Retail Theft gives the store, known as the retail establishment, the right to sue you in civil court for civil, or money damages.  The very last part of the statute which deals with the crime of Retail Theft discusses the civil penalties available to the retail establishment. The amount of money the store’s lawyers can go after you for it is the actual retail value of that you stole, or tried to steal, plus anywhere between $100 and $1,000, plus their attorney fees and any court costs associated with the attempt to collect this civil penalty.  You will first find out that the store is trying to do this when you receive a letter from their attorneys informing you that they are seeking the civil penalty against you. That letter will inform you that you need to contact them to discuss payment. You need to understand that this proceeding is completely separate and distinct from the criminal case that you are facing. Paying the amount they are seeking will not halt the legal proceedings in the criminal case. As a matter of fact, the prosecutor handling your criminal case and the civil attorney representing the store for money damages have nothing to do with each other.  They are not communicating with each other nor are they working together.  Often, payment of the civil penalty is something that an experienced Illinois Retail Theft attorney can use when negotiating with the prosecutor to work out a favorable resolution to your criminal Retail Theft case.  Showing a prosecutor proof that you paid the civil penalty can only help convince a prosecutor you have accepted responsibility and are trying to make good for the bad that you did.  I have used it many times to help get a good deal for a client charged with Retail Theft. At the very least, it has never harmed the client to come to court with proof that they paid the civil penalty.  It’s important to know that the statute provides that payment of the civil penalty cannot be used against you in the criminal case to prove that you admitted responsibility or confessed to the crime.  From my experience, if you are unable to pay the full amount that the store is demanding, if you contact their attorneys representing the retail establishment, they will work out reasonable payment plans.

What happens if you do not make the payment? First, you cannot go to jail for not making the civil penalty payment. Technically, the store has a right to file a lawsuit against you. But this rarely happens. That’s because the amount owed isn’t worth the expense to the store and their attorneys of filing a lawsuit against you. What frequently happens if you don’t make the payment is that they will turn over the claim to a collection agency. The collection agency will come after you just like any other collection agency would for any other type of debt owed. They may put this on your credit report and make annoying phone calls to your home and work to try to get you to pay.

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.