Articles Posted in Theft/Retail Theft

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, Kane County, and Lake 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 Chicago, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake 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.