Chicago Shoplifting Attorney
It may have been a misunderstanding or an impulsive act that you are unlikely to repeat, but shoplifting–or retail theft, as it is known under Illinois law, is taken very seriously. With stores across the state losing millions of dollars a year due to theft, the police, prosecutors, and the retailers themselves pursue these crimes vigorously and dole out harsh penalties in an effort to deter offenders.
While these offenses are sometimes seen as a victimless crime, if you are convicted it can lead to fines, time in jail, and a permanent theft conviction on your record that can significantly limit your future. If you are confronted with a retail theft charge, don’t face it alone. Contact an experienced Chicago shoplifting attorney as soon as possible, who can fight for your benefit through decisive action and skillful advocacy.
O’Meara Law LLC is here for you. Call us at 312-909-0706 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help.
What is Shoplifting in Illinois?
Under Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/16-25, retail theft or shoplifting is defined as any of the following acts with the intent of depriving a merchant of the full retail value of a product:
- Taking merchandise from a retail store without paying for it
- Altering or remove price tags
- Switching goods from one container to another
- “Under-ring” an item if you are a store employee
- Using a theft-detection shielding device
- Returning a product that you did not pay for
- Keeping a leased or rented product past its date of return
Additionally, if you are found beyond the cash register with one of the store’s products concealed on your person, it can be concluded that you had the criminal intent to shoplift.
Can I go To Jail for Shoplifting?
Retail theft or shoplifting may seem like a relatively minor crime to many people; however, the consequences can be severe and even a first offense can result in some time behind bars. Depending on the exact circumstances of the crime, your previous history, and the value that was allegedly taken, shoplifting can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
When the value is less than $300, you may receive any of the following penalties:
- Class A misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500
- Class 4 felony involving a one to three-year prison sentence and fines reaching $25,000 if you used an emergency exit to escape, OR if this is your second conviction.
- Class 3 felony with a possible two to five-year sentence and fines of up to $25,000 if you used an emergency exit AND this is your second conviction.
When the value of the goods exceeds $300, the court may sentence you as following:
- Class 3 felony with a possible two to five-year sentence and fines of up to $25,000.
- Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison and possible fines reaching $25,000 if you used the store’s emergency exit to get away.
Furthermore, when someone is convicted of retail theft on more than one occasion in a given year, the court may consider the total amount stolen over that year, even if the incidents were at different retailers. Therefore, if you are convicted of shoplifting $150 worth of merchandise at one location and months later you are arrested for stealing $200 at another store, you may face heightened consequences since the total amount was $350.
How Can I Defend Myself Against Shoplifting Charges
The potential consequences for a retail theft or shoplifting conviction can vary considerably and may impact you for a long time after the act. This makes it critical to review your situation with a knowledgeable and highly skilled criminal defense lawyer who can objectively review the evidence, looking for possible strengths and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you.
There are a number of effective defense strategies that a skilled Chicago shoplifting attorney can use to achieve the best possible result, including getting your charges reduced or dismissed. One of the common defenses techniques in retail theft cases involves proving that it was never your intention to steal the items in question. Maybe you left the store in a hurry and simply forgot that the property was on your person. It might also be the case that someone working at the store mistook you for the actual perpetrator since eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and retail stores can be very busy places.
Even if the evidence strongly points to your guilt, it may be possible to mitigate the effects of a conviction. It may be in your best interest for your lawyer to work with the prosecutor towards a plea agreement that can involve community service, counseling, and paying back the store. This is an especially attractive option if you’re a first-time offender who may be eligible for a deferred prosecution program, which if completed and the store is paid back may result in a dismissal.
Call O’Meara Law Right Away
As an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney, Michael O’Meara knows that a shoplifting charge in Illinois is an incredibly stressful situation. With possible jail time, costly fines, and all of the negative implications of a criminal record, anyone would be worried. But don’t accept these as your only options.
At O’Meara Law, we will listen to your side of the story and our priority will be to build the strongest possible defense as we work towards a favorable outcome.
Contact attorney O’Meara today at 312-909-0706 or online to discuss the situation in a free and confidential consultation.