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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.



Posted in Criminal Law, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Retail Theft | Tagged , , ,

Defending Against a Hit-And-Run ChargeFleeing the scene of a vehicle accident is a criminal charge that can compound the consequences of your case. Whether you are being charged with a traffic violation or driving under the influence, adding a hit-and-run charge implies that you were trying to evade responsibility for the incident. It can be difficult to contest a hit-and-run charge because the facts are usually unambiguous. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows strategies to cast reasonable doubt on the charge or minimize its effect on your case.

  1. Mistaken Identity: Your best defense against a hit-and-run charge is if the prosecution cannot prove that you were involved in the incident. There must be a reliable witness that identified your vehicle’s appearance and license plate number. Even if it was your vehicle at the scene of the incident, you would not be criminally liable if someone else was driving it.
  2. Unaware of the Incident: You can claim that you did not knowingly flee the scene of the incident because you were not aware that the incident occurred. The court may find this difficult to believe if you were involved in a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian. You will need to give a reasonable explanation for why you did not notice the incident.
  3. Emergency Situation: There may have been an extenuating circumstance that prevented you from stopping, such as transporting someone to the hospital. The court may be more lenient with you if it knows that you were dealing with a medical emergency and under duress.
  4. Involuntary Intoxication: Though a rare situation, you may not be responsible for your actions while driving if someone drugged you without your knowledge. However, proving this defense can be difficult because you would need to identify when the drugging took place and explain how your intoxication affected your judgment.
  5. Not at Fault: You can argue that you did not commit the other traffic charges brought against you and were not the person responsible for the accident. This does not excuse you from fleeing the scene of the incident, but it will lessen your overall punishment if you are convicted.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

A hit-and-run charge is a class A misdemeanor if it involved property damage and a felony if someone was injured or killed in the incident. A felony hit-and-run carries a sentence of as long as five years in prison and a fine of as much as $25,000. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will work to contest your hit-and-run charge or lessen the punishment. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Hit and Run, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Traffic Violation | Tagged , ,

Probable Cause, Arrest Required Before Taking DUI Blood SampleIllinois’ implied consent law puts you at a disadvantage when you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the law, all drivers have consented to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test by providing a blood or urine sample. A police officer cannot physically force you to provide a sample, but refusing may lead to additional charges. Police do not need your permission to take a blood sample from you while you are unconscious if there is probable cause that you were involved in a DUI incident. Despite these legal advantages, police may still skip the required steps in obtaining a BAC test sample, which allows you to request that the test results be dismissed from evidence.

Recent Example

In People v. Pratt, an Illinois court determined that the BAC test results from a fatal crash were inadmissible in a DUI case. The defendant had crashed his vehicle into a tractor-trailer, killing a passenger in his vehicle and injuring himself. An officer at the scene testified that the man was incoherent when responding to questions and an open bottle of alcohol was in the back seat of his car. A police chief contacted an off-duty detective, asking him to obtain a blood sample from the defendant at the hospital. The detective asked a nurse to draw the blood sample because the defendant was unconscious.

Probable Cause and Arrest

Prosecutors argued during the trial that the detective did not need a warrant to obtain the blood sample because of the implied consent law. The court responded that implied consent did not apply in this case because:

  • Police had not arrested the defendant; and
  • There was no proof of probable cause.

The court stated that the prosecution had not shown that the detective or the police chief had probable cause to suspect that the defendant had committed a DUI offense. The detective was not at the scene of the accident and did not testify that he had read an accident report before going to the hospital. The police chief did not testify to say what evidence he directly knew of before calling the detective. The court also found the evidence from the officer at the scene to be unconvincing. The defendant may have been incoherent because he was injured, and there was no evidence that the driver had recently consumed the alcohol found in the vehicle.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

Prosecutors cannot use evidence that police illegally obtained from you. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can argue that police did not have probable cause before seizing the evidence in your case. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, DUI, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer | Tagged , , , ,