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Retail Theft

A Retail Theft Charge Has Serious Ramifications: A Criminal Lawyer Can Help

A retail theft conviction carries with it serious penalties and possibly jail time. In addition, a convicted individual may find securing employment, renting a home or obtaining professional licensing difficult. However, charges of retail theft can be challenged with the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney.

What Is Retail Theft?

Retail theft involves taking something that is offered for sale from a business establishment without paying for it and depriving the establishment of its worth. Under Illinois criminal code a charge of retail theft can be made if an individual leaves a retail store with an item without paying for it. In addition, the store can allege retail theft if an individual conceals an object by placing it out of clear view. Altering the price of an item by replacing the tag with another or using a theft-shielding device may prompt a charge of retail theft. An action such as taking a shopping cart off the premises may also be considered retail theft.

Evidence for Retail Theft

Proof of retail theft might be in the form of employee statements, video evidence, witness information, or finding the object on the person outside the store or beyond the checkout area. Security personnel, who are not obligated to conform to the same standards as police officers, might detain the alleged shoplifter, particularly if the individual argues that the item was forgotten and that he or she did not intend to steal it. In such a case, the store might ask that the alleged shoplifter sign a statement detailing the incident. Potentially, this could be used against the individual, and having the advice of an attorney before signing paperwork is best.

An attorney can refute charges against a client in a court of law.


Penalties for retail theft vary according to the price of the object and prior history of shoplifting. Items above $300 are usually associated with a felony charge, while those under $300 are considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor may be upgraded to a felony if there is a prior history of retail theft. Jail time can vary according to the charges, and fines can reach $2,500 in the case of a misdemeanor to $10,000 for a felony.

Beyond jail time, fines and other penalties, having a criminal record can affect your career. Many types of professional licenses require that the individual not have a criminal background. In addition, misdemeanors and felonies can interfere in obtaining housing or employment.

Criminal charges are serious and having an attorney is necessary.

Defense Strategies

Since a retail theft conviction has a significant impact on a convicted person’s life after the case concludes, it is important to consult with an attorney who can represent you and can structure a defense strategy to deal with the charges.

Since intent is a major component of a retail theft charge, an attorney may argue that there was no intent to take the item. Your attorney may request that attendance at Theft School be permitted by the court. If the program is completed successfully, this might lead to dismissal of the charges and subsequent expungement.

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