The consequences of retail theft

When charged with retail theft, often called shoplifting, it comes with serious consequences that many people may not realize.

While some people may think that paying for the stolen goods will provide a final resolution, this type of charge has long-term consequences.

What does Illinois law consider retail theft?

Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/16-25 provides a definition for retail theft and its associated penalties. Intent remains the key element of retail theft. Accidentally not paying for something may not lead to charges files. Along with purposely taking an item without paying for it, situations that result in retail theft charges include:

  • Changing, transferring or removing a bar code or price tag
  • Jamming or disarming a security alarm to avoid a scanning device
  • Pretending to have prior possession of the item
  • Using deception to pay less for an item
  • Moving a product into a different container

What consequences come with a retail theft conviction?

The law can classify retail theft as a misdemeanor or felony. The situation, number of offenses and value of the stolen items affect the severity of the penalties. Stolen items valued under $300 may receive a Class A misdemeanor classification. The consequences include a potential year-long sentence and paying a $2,500 fine. Anything valued at over $300 may move the charge up to a Class 4 felony. Along with facing a $25,000 fine, a person may also serve up the three years in jail. While the penalties may vary between the above, any felony retail theft conviction means ineligibility to expunge or seal the record. A retail theft charge may also mean facing civil penalties.

When facing this kind of charge, people do have options. The right defense strategy may minimize the consequences.