Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Burglary Conviction in Shoplifting Case

The Illinois Criminal Code contains provisions to address all manner of illegal activity. In many cases, there may be more than one statute that could apply to a particular situation. While some make sense and are often used in tandem, such as a reckless driving charge in connection with charges of DUI, others seem to be more of a stretch. One such example can be found in a case recently heard by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding burglary charges being brought against a defendant who stole from a Walmart during normal business hours.

Retail Theft or Burglary

Under Illinois law, there are separate statutes that deal with shoplifting, or other retail theft, and burglary. A person commits retail theft by stealing, altering prices, or otherwise failing to pay the proper price for merchandise in a retail setting. Retail theft charges range from a Class A misdemeanor up to a Class 3 felony, depending on the value and nature of the merchandise.
Burglary, by contrast, refers to a person entering or remaining without authority on the property of another with the intent to commit a theft or felony. The most basic burglary charge is a Class 2 felony.

People v. Bradford

The case before the Supreme Court involved a defendant who had been convicted at trial of burglary by remaining, for staying on the premises of a Walmart during business hours with the intent to steal merchandise. While evidence regarding the value of the merchandise was not presented, both sides agreed that the value did not exceed $300. Thus, a retail theft charge instead of burglary would have been a Class A misdemeanor under the circumstances.

The defense claimed that the defendant never accessed any off-limits areas of the store, never attempted to conceal his presence in the store, and was never asked to leave. While the defendant admitted to stealing the merchandise, the defense maintained that burglary statute was not meant to encompass retail theft or shoplifting.

Felony Conviction Reversed

Upon consideration of the evidence, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the defendant’s claims. The Court pointed out that the law pertaining to retail theft was enacted by the Illinois lawmakers 14 years after the statute addressing burglary. “It strains logic to presume that the legislature intended most incidents of retail theft to be prosecuted as burglaries,” the Court observed. The Supreme Court concluded that, if the defendant had exceeded his physical authority to be on the premises, burglary charges might be appropriate, but, in this case, he did not, so his felony conviction for burglary was reversed.

Facing Criminal Charges?

If you have been accused of shoplifting or burglary, it is important to work an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba fully understands the law and will help you explore your options in building a responsible defense. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation today and get the assistance you need from a lawyer you can trust.

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