Retail Theft Under Illinois Law
With the retail “sale” season upon us, stores are more vigilant in apprehending persons for the offense of retail theft. As previously posted in this blog (/blog/consequences-of-inadvertently-failing-to-pay-for-groceries), a person commits the offense of retail theft under Illinois law “when he or she knowingly… takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or with the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value of such merchandise…”
720 ILCS 5/16-25. Walking past a cash register without paying for the item is considered an indication to commit a theft. Another indication of intent to steal is the concealment of the merchandise for sale upon the person or among the accused’s possessions.
A violation of this provision of the retail theft statute if the value of the merchandise is under $300 is a Class A misdemeanor. A subsequent conviction for this offense is a Class 4 felony. It is a Class 3 felony if the value of the merchandise is over $300.
Another statute, 720 ILCS 5/16-26 allows a merchant who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person committed retail theft to detain that person to request identification, verify that identification, make a reasonable inquiry regarding unpurchased property on that person, to contact law enforcement, and, in the case of a minor to contact that minor’s parent or guardian and, at the merchant’s discretion, to contact the police and surrender custody of the minor.
A first offender charged with misdemeanor theft may be eligible for a diversion program and a first offender charged with felony theft may be accepted to the Second Chance Probation, but there may be devastating consequences if a person is convicted, including potential employment and immigration repercussions, Additionally, the merchant may attempt to obtain civil damages from the accused, whether or not the person is eventually actually prosecuted or convicted.
Should a person find themselves arrested for the offense of retail theft, it is not something that should be taken lightly. An experienced criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible.
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601