If you have noticed an increase in the price of houses, cars, household goods and other items recently, your mind is not playing tricks on you. After all, the consumer price index, the primary measure of inflation, shows a drastic 5.4% increase in the cost of goods in just one year. This number represents the largest price jump in more than a decade.
Not being able to afford essential items can take a toll on anyone. If prosecutors charge you with shoplifting, though, you may find retail theft to be costlier than you previously thought.
In Illinois, prosecutors use the value of stolen items to determine whether to bring misdemeanor or felony charges. Taking merchandise with a value under $300 is typically a misdemeanor offense. Upon conviction for misdemeanor retail theft, you may spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a fine of up to $2,500.
Following a conviction for felony retail theft, which is usually the charge when the value of taking goods exceeds $300, a judge may send you to prison for as many as 5 years and order you to pay up to $25,000 in fines.
Your financial burden may not end upon completing your sentence and paying your fines, unfortunately. Retail stores often send shoplifters civil demand letters. These letters require individuals to pay the costs of theft prevention and taken items. If you are unable or willing to comply with the civil demand letter, the store’s owner may sue you to collect.
Ultimately, because retail theft can leave you penniless, it may be critical to mount an aggressive defense to any shoplifting charges you are facing.