theft, Wheaton criminal defense attorneysThere are multiple factors that determine whether a retail theft conviction is a misdemeanor or felony, which is an important distinction for the offender. A felony conviction has stricter penalties, sometimes including mandatory prison time, and causes more limitations for people who have one on their criminal record. The value of the stolen items is one of the primary differences between a misdemeanor and a felony retail theft charge. Unfortunately for Illinois residents, the state has one of the lowest monetary thresholds for a felony retail theft charge, which puts defendants at greater risk of a felony conviction.

Illinois Retail Theft Law

In Illinois, the cutoff between misdemeanor and felony retail theft charges is a mere $300. A first-time retail theft conviction involving $300 or less is a Class A misdemeanor, while a first-time conviction involving more than $300 is a Class 4 felony. To put that number into perspective:

  • The felony threshold for standard theft in Illinois is $500.
  • Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony retail theft charges for first offenses involving less than $500.
  • Fifteen states require the value of the items to be at least $1,200 before mandating a felony charge.
  • Some states have set the threshold as high as $2,500.

A group of Illinois state legislators is attempting to address the state's strict retail theft law by introducing a bill that would raise the felony threshold to $2,000, which would be one of the highest thresholds in the country. Since the law was introduced in January 2019, it has yet to move past short debates at the committee level.

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What Are the Consequences of Illegally Possessing Prescription Drugs?With rising awareness of the potential abuse of prescription drugs, Illinois lawmakers have cracked down on the illegal possession and distribution of these drugs. Prescription painkillers and amphetamines can be as addictive as the well-known illegal drugs but are more readily available to some people because of their legal uses. A prescription drug charge in Illinois is a felony offense, and a conviction may result in mandatory prison time. With the right criminal defense lawyer, you can contest the charge and prevent severe consequences.

What Are Criminal Offenses Related to Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are controlled substances, and it is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture them without authorization. Ways that someone can violate the prescription drug laws include:

  • Possessing a controlled substance without a prescription from a doctor
  • Possessing a greater amount of a controlled substance than is authorized by a prescription
  • Creating a false prescription in order to obtain a controlled substance
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Lying to a doctor in order to receive a prescription
  • Sharing a controlled substance with others
  • Writing a prescription as a doctor for a non-medical purpose

A criminal charge related to prescription drugs can be anywhere from a Class 4 felony to a Class X felony, depending on the amount you possessed, how you obtained them, and whether you were distributing them to others. A Class 4 felony conviction can result in one-to-three years in prison and a fine of as much as $25,000. A Class X felony conviction can result in a minimum of six years in prison.

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The Legal Consequences of Underage DrinkingUnderage drinking is a common activity among teens in social situations. Even those who do not enjoy drinking may feel pressured to fit in with their peers. Parents understand the dangers of underage drinking but may think of it more as a matter of parental discipline than legal punishment. Possession or consumption of alcohol by someone younger than 21 is a crime in Illinois with serious consequences. The penalties become harsher if the drinking is combined with other offenses, such as driving or using a fake ID.

Possession and Consumption

Underage possession or consumption of alcohol is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and as long as a year in jail. Jail time is highly unlikely for this offense. The biggest consequence for the teen may be the loss of their driving privileges:

  • Their license will be suspended for three months if they receive court supervision.
  • Their license will be suspended six months for a first offense.
  • Their license will be suspended for a year for a second offense.

Possessing alcohol does not mean that the underage person must be caught holding the alcohol. Having the alcohol nearby and within easy access to them also counts as possession. The exception for underage consumption is if the teen is at home and under the supervision of a parent.

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Understanding the Burden of Proof in Criminal CasesThe U.S. has a court system that is meant to protect the accused as well as the accuser. An accusation must have some merit in order for the court to allow the case, and the prosecutor or plaintiff must prove why the defendant is guilty of or liable for the accusation. The burden of proof is one of the key concepts behind innocent until proven guilty, but different levels of proof are required depending on the type of case, including:

  • A preponderance of the evidence
  • Clear and convincing evidence
  • Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt

Criminal cases require the highest burden of proof because defendants have the most at stake if they are convicted.

A Preponderance of the Evidence

In most civil cases, the plaintiff must prove their claim by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claim is accurate. The judge or jury may not have the evidence to dismiss either sides’ argument but only needs to determine which argument is more plausible. Courts allow this standard of proof in civil cases because the defendant is not faced with the threat of imprisonment. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant’s punishment will be financial, such as paying medical bills for an injury or replacing lost property or wages.

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How States Restrict Recreational MarijuanaIllinois laws treat marijuana differently as compared to other illegal substances. Medical marijuana is legal, and lawmakers have decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana. With several states having already legalized recreational marijuana, Illinois seems likely to follow suit at some point. However, these states heavily regulate recreational marijuana use because of the perceived public safety risks associated with being high. Marijuana-related arrests continue as the public and law enforcement figure out the new laws. Here are five restrictions that states use when they legalize recreational marijuana:

  1. Possession Limits: States put limits on how many grams of marijuana you can have, which can vary depending on whether it is in flower, liquid, or edible form. The amount you can possess in public is much less than what you can possess at your private residence. Being caught with an ounce more than the legal limit is usually a petty offense, but possessing large amounts of marijuana can be a misdemeanor or felony.
  2. Age Minimum: An adult must be at least 21 years old in order to possess marijuana in states where it is legal. As with alcohol, teens will be charged with underage possession.
  3. Where You Can Use It: Every state that has legalized recreational marijuana has also banned people from using it in public places. Smoking marijuana in a public place is a petty offense or a misdemeanor if you possess more than the legal limit.
  4. Transporting Marijuana: As with alcohol, drivers are not allowed to have marijuana in an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle. Police officers may have their own interpretations of what is an open container, but they usually must observe evidence that the marijuana product has been used.
  5. Driving Under the Influence: Driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime, but states have not yet agreed on how to measure whether a driver is impaired by marijuana. Law enforcement uses THC levels as the equivalent to the blood alcohol concentration for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, THC levels may not indicate whether a driver was impaired by the substance because they can stay in a person’s blood for days. Without an objective test, police officers must rely on subjective observations when deciding whether to make an arrest.

Facing Marijuana Charges

Illinois does not appear to be close to legalizing recreational marijuana. Possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana is a criminal offense that could result in jail time and fines. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can help you contest your marijuana charge or receive minimal punishment. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.

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