In Illinois, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have the right to upgrade charges against a defendant if their alleged crime rises to or exceeds certain thresholds defined in the state’s criminal code. One common example of charges which may be upgraded occurs when an offense crosses the line between misdemeanor shoplifting and felony theft.
Smart on Crime or Potential for More Trouble?
At this time in Illinois, charges related to the theft of property that has a value that exceeds $500 can be raised from a misdemeanor to a felony, but legislation supported by the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform was introduced in early 2017 that would raise that limit to $2,000. The issue has initiated debate among Illinois legislators, as well as retailer groups and advocates for prison reform. Some of the issues surrounding this proposed change in the law include:
- Twenty-nine states have thresholds which are two times greater than that of Illinois, or even higher, including Texas and Wisconsin, where the value of stolen property must exceed $2,500 before felony charges take effect.
- Illinois spent more than $58 million in 2015 to imprison felony theft convicts.
- Reform advocates insist that the dollar threshold for these crimes has no impact on the rate of theft or larceny crimes committed.
- Under current Illinois law, victims are not compensated for the loss if the offender is jailed.
- Most prison and sentencing reform advocates insist that jailing nonviolent offenders is not only a waste of money, but it often results in those individuals returning to prison for other crimes upon their release.
- Retailer groups oppose the legislation, as they fear it will result in higher incidents of shoplifting and theft, increasing the costs associated with losses due to theft.
Where Does This Issue Stand Now?
Earlier last year, Illinois House Bill 3337, which addresses this issue, had gained some support, but it was eventually referred back to the Rules Committee for further review. As a result, nothing has changed, and the felony theft threshold currently remains at $500.
Seek Help from a Knowledgeable Joliet Shoplifting and Theft Defense Attorney
If you, a friend, or family member has been detained or arrested for shoplifting, it is important to know how authorities might pursue the case based on the value of items alleged to have been taken. Understanding the variables of your case can help you decide the best course of action. An experienced Will County shoplifting and theft defense attorney will help protect your rights and assure you of fair treatment throughout the process. Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba today at 815-740-4025 to schedule a consultation with an attorney who has years of experience with these types of situations.