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The Difference Between Misdemeanor Shoplifting and Felony Retail Theft

joliet shoplifting theft attorney

An individual charged with shoplifting may later learn they are facing a much more serious felony charge. How did this happen? What should you do? Illinois statutes lay out in detail the difference between theft and retail theft , and within the laws are provisions that allow for prosecutors to upgrade charges from misdemeanor shoplifting to a felony depending on the circumstances of the case.

When Does Shoplifting Become a Felony?

The basic definition of retail shoplifting is when a person is alleged to take, possess, carry away, or transfer any retail merchandise. However, intent to deprive the merchant of full value must be proven. Under this definition, the accused of an alleged crime should pay for the merchandise, but not pay full value – as if one were to alter or swap out a price tag or “under ring” the item’s price at checkout. Under Illinois law , when it is a first offense and the value of the merchandise is under $300 (or $150 in motor fuel), a misdemeanor charge is usually brought.

Under certain circumstances in Illinois, a misdemeanor charge of shoplifting can be upgraded to a felony if any of the following criteria are met:

• The value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $300 (or $150 in motor fuel), even if the first offense.
• A subsequent shoplifting charge, after a previous misdemeanor conviction.
• Use of an emergency exit to commit theft, even when the value of the stolen merchandise does not exceed $300.
• Retail theft of property, even when the full retail value of the property does not exceed $300 (or $150 for motor fuel), may result in the felony charge if there was a previous conviction of any type of theft, robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, home invasion, unlawful use of a credit card, or forgery.

Get the Help of an Experienced Retail Theft Defense Attorney

If ever you are charged with a crime such as shoplifting, it is important to protect yourself with the help of a legal professional who knows the nuances of Illinois laws. Securing the services of a knowledgeable Will County retail theft lawyer will ensure you are treated fairly throughout the entire process. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will provide a strong defense on your behalf and seek the best possible resolution to the situation.

Illinois Property Crimes: Burglary

joliet burglary attorney

In a recent post on this blog, we talked a little bit about the differences between two common types of property crimes—specifically the offenses of theft and robbery. That post also made reference to a third offense that is often lumped in with the other two despite being rather different. The crime of burglary is one that is frequently misunderstood but can lead to serious criminal consequences for those who are convicted.

What Is Burglary?

According to Illinois law, the crimes of theft and robbery involve the taking or attempting to take property belonging to another person. Burglary , however, does not require the offender to take or to try to take anything; his or her intent is what matters. The Illinois Criminal Code provides that a burglary occurs when a person gains unauthorized access to a home, building, boat, airplane, car, or trailer with the “intent to commit a felony or theft.” So, what does that mean?

Perhaps the more colloquial term “breaking and entering” is a little clearer. Strictly speaking, burglary does not refer to the taking of another’s property; it only addresses the offender’s access to the property in question, though “breaking in” is also not statutorily necessary. For example, a person can be charged with burglary for walking into an unlocked house with the intent to steal something.

Proving Intent and Add-On Charges

Burglary is a Class 2 felony unless it occurs at a school, day care, or church, in which case, it becomes a Class 1 felony. In order to obtain a conviction, however, prosecutors must show that offender had the intent of committing a theft or felony. If the offender gained access to the property and began loading items into a sack before being caught, his or her intent to commit theft is fairly obvious and may result in charges of both burglary and theft.

If the offender gains access or stays on the property when the property is occupied—while the owners of the house are sleeping, for example—the situation can become even more serious very quickly. The Class X felony charge of home invasion may be appropriate if the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon and he or she threatens or injures any of the occupants. If, however, the offender surrenders or leaves the premises immediately when he or she realizes the property is occupied, the home invasion charge may be reduced to burglary.

Skilled Legal Guidance

At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we understand that a charge of burglary can change your life. If you or a loved one has been arrested, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney immediately. We will help you protect your rights and look for ways to limit the damage to your future. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

Illinois Property Crimes: Theft and Robbery

joliet theft and robbery attorney

If you ever watch the news or skim local newspaper, you have probably heard reports of countless individuals who were arrested on suspicion of a wide variety of criminal offenses. When the crime in question involves the taking of someone else’s property , there are several charges that could be brought against the suspect. While many of them may sound similar to the average person, there are distinct differences between theft, robbery, and burglary in Illinois.

Property Crimes

Theft, robbery, and burglary are commonly considered types of property crimes because, for the most part, they involve the unauthorized taking of property belonging to another person. While an upcoming post will address how burglary can be a little bit different, theft and robbery charges may be brought against a person if law enforcement believes that he or she took or attempted to take someone else’s personal property.


Theft is perhaps the most basic of all property crimes and the charge may include a wide variety of circumstances and types of property. Illinois law defines theft as knowingly obtaining or exerting unauthorized or illicit control over another’s property either by direct taking, by deception, or by threat. Theft also includes obtaining control over property known or believed to have already been stolen.

There are varying degrees of theft charges which range from a Class A misdemeanor for the taking of property valued at less than $500 up to a Class X felony for large-scale operations involving property valued at over $1 million. The specific charges and associated penalties depend on many factors including:

• The value of the property alleged to have been stolen;
• How the property was stolen, including the use of deception;
• The age of the victim;
• The location of the alleged theft; and
• The suspects prior criminal history.

It is important to note that Illinois law contains separate provisions for dealing with retail theft , including shoplifting and under-ringing of merchandise. Such charges are also based on the value of the property alleged to have been stolen, how it was taken, and the suspect’s history.


While theft can be as simple as walking up and reaching into an unattended purse or a coat pocket, the offense of robbery is decidedly different and often more serious. According to Illinois law, robbery is committed when an individual takes another’s property directly from the owner’s person or presence “through the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force.” Robbery is, at minimum, a Class 2 felony, which may be elevated to a Class 1 felony based on the victim’s age or disability status or the location of the robbery.

Aggravated robbery—also a Class 1 felony—may be charged if the individual indicated he or she was carrying a weapon or if the victim was drugged by the suspect. If a weapon is actually present or used during a robbery, the offense will be considered armed robbery, a Class X felony. In any robbery where a firearm is shown, discharged, or causes serious injury or death, the resulting penalties will statutorily include an additional 15 years, 20 years, and 25 years to life in prison, respectively.

Facing Property Crime Charges?

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with robbery or any other theft-related offense, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.


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