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Defense Strategies for a Retail Theft Charge

Posted on in Criminal Law
Defense Strategies for a Retail Theft ChargeA shoplifting charge has serious consequences for what may seem like a basic crime. In Illinois, a first-time conviction for retail theft is a class A misdemeanor if the items are valued at $300 or less. There is a maximum prison sentence of one year, but offenders can qualify for court supervision instead. A second retail theft conviction is a class 4 felony and punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. If the items in a first offense are valued at more than $300, it is a class 3 felony and punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. The store owner may also file a lawsuit against a shoplifter, seeking civil damages. It is important to contest a retail theft charge instead of accepting your punishment.

Forms of Retail Theft

The typical image of a shoplifter is someone who conceals an item and tries to leave the store with it. However, Illinois includes several other methods of stealing in its definition of retail theft, such as:

  • Removing or altering a price tag in order to purchase an item at a lower price;
  • Placing an item in a container for discounted items, with the intention of deceiving the seller about its price;
  • Lying about being the lawful owner of an item; and
  • Using or possessing a device meant to remove a security sensor or shield the sensor from setting off an alarm.

You can aggravate your retail theft charge if you use an emergency exit when attempting to flee with the item. A first offense for items $300 or less will be a class 4 felony.

Defense Tactics

For you to be guilty of retail theft, the prosecution must prove that you intended to steal an item or cheat the store out of fair value for the item. Some alleged retail theft incidents are actually innocent mistakes. You can argue that:

  • You forgot that you had the item when you walked out of the store;
  • The store mislabeled the item that you purchased; or
  • The cashier forgot to ring up an item.

If you are convicted of retail theft, your circumstances can help reduce your penalties. A court is unlikely to send you to prison for stealing something cheap. It may also show you leniency if you say that you behaved impulsively and regret your actions.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

A shoplifting charge or conviction should not ruin your life. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will protect you from unfounded charges and overly harsh punishment. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.


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