The Difference Between Misdemeanor Shoplifting and Felony Retail Theft

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.

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