While stealing someone else’s property is generally considered to be wrong, and people are aware that they may face consequences for doing so, some may believe that “minor” forms of theft are less serious. Theft offenses that are often considered minor include retail theft or shoplifting, and people may feel that pocketing an item such as a pack of gum at a grocery store or gas station is not a serious problem that requires the involvement of the police or other authorities. However, retail theft is a crime and depending on the circumstances of a case and the value of the goods stolen, a person may face serious penalties. By understanding the laws related to retail theft in Illinois, a person charged with this offense will be able to determine how to approach these accusations.
Acts That May Be Considered Retail Theft
At the most basic level, retail theft may be defined as taking possession of merchandise that is displayed, stored, or offered for sale in a retail establishment with the intention of depriving the seller of the possession or benefit of these items without paying the full retail price. That is, shoplifting will often consist of taking items out of a store without paying for them. However, Illinois law also defines several other forms of retail theft, including:
- Altering price tags – A person may switch the labels or tags on different items, allowing a product to be rung up for a price lower than its actual value, or they may otherwise alter price tags in order to reduce the amount paid for an item.
- Switching containers – A person may transfer items from one container to another with the intent of paying a lower price for items, or they may place items within the container of another product that they plan to purchase in order to avoid paying for these items.
- Under-ringing – A person may cause an item to be rung up for less than its full retail price. This may be done at self-checkouts or with the assistance of a cashier working at the store.
- Theft by deception – A person may falsely claim that they are the owner of an item sold in a store with the intent of taking the item without paying for it.
- Removing theft detection devices – If merchandise contains sensors that trip alarms when items are taken from a store, a person may attempt to remove these devices illegally. Possession of a tool used to remove these devices or to shield them from tripping sensors is a criminal offense if a person intends to use this tool to commit retail theft.
- Failure to return rental property – If a person rents or leases equipment or other items, and does not return them to the owner or fails to pay the full retail value, they may be charged with retail theft. These charges may apply if an item has not been returned for ten days after an owner sends a demand letter asking for the return of the property.
- Theft by emergency exit – More serious charges may apply if a person commits any of the forms of retail theft described above and leaves a store through an emergency exit.
If retail theft involves property valued at less than $300 or $150 of motor fuel, a person may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a prison sentence of up to one year. Retail theft exceeding these amounts, including in separate transactions that are considered to be a continuing course of conduct committed during a period of one year, may result in Class 3 felony charges, which carry a prison sentence of two to five years. Theft by emergency exit of items worth less than $300 is a Class 4 felony with a prison sentence of one to three years, and for items worth more than $300, it is a Class 2 felony with a sentence of three to seven years.
Contact Our Will County Retail Theft Defense Lawyer
If you or a member of your family have been charged with retail theft, the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. can help you determine your best options for defense. To receive the legal help and representation you need, contact our Will County shoplifting defense attorney at 815-740-4025 and set up a free consultation.