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Posted on in Theft

IL defense lawyerStores have many methods of keeping their merchandise and location safe from thieves, but it can still happen from customers and employees alike. People who attempt to steal from a store will face serious consequences if they are caught. Retail theft may be a tempting idea for people who are desperate for food or clothes, but offenders will be charged with misdemeanor or even felony charges if caught.

What Does the Law Say?

The state of Illinois punishes alleged thieves whether they are a person off the streets or someone who works for the business. It also covers a variety of ways that people can attempt to steal. Most simply grab an item and leave the store, but other types of theft that the law covers are:

  • Altering and/or removing labels from items to make them “less expensive” when the cashier rings up the item.
  • Taking an item from the container in which it is being stored with the intention of stealing the merchandise.
  • Removing a shopping cart from the business without their consent.
  • Attempts to convince the merchant that they are the rightful owner of the merchandise they are trying to steal.
  • Using a theft deflection device to try hiding their unlawful action from the merchant.
  • Employees who under-ring a product so they do not pay full price.
  • Using a self-checkout line to attempt to not ring up a product properly.

The least severe charge for retail theft is a Class A misdemeanor which is given out when the value of property stolen does not exceed $300. Using an anti-theft device is also a Class A misdemeanor for first offenders; subsequent offenses are elevated to Class 4 felony charges.

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Posted on in Theft

Chicago criminal defense attorneyIt is estimated that there exist approximately 27 million shoplifters in the United States. That means that one in 11 people have shoplifted at some point in their lives. In the last five years, over 10 million of those people have been caught. Shoplifting is so prevalent that there is even a community of proud shoplifters showing off pictures of items they have swiped on the social networking website Reddit. The community, which has over 30 thousand subscribers, is a forum for shoplifters to share methods, advice, and tricks of the trade. The welcome message touts “Welcome to Shoplifting! If you're here to preach morals, enjoy your very brief stay. If you're here to learn and share, please help contribute to our wonderful community of allegedly corrupt and soulless individuals.”

Shoplifting Can Cost More Than You Might Think

Although shoplifting is often seen as a minor crime, the consequences can be serious. If a person is caught shoplifting, they could face criminal penalties including fines, community service, or even jail time.

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Chicago retail theft attorneysWhen you think about shoplifting, there is a good chance you picture an individual surreptitiously sneaking an item or two under his or her jacket or into a handbag. This type of retail theft certainly does occur and retailers lose billions of dollars each year to small-time shoplifters. Sometimes, however, shoplifting can be a much bigger operation—even rising to the level of organized crime. Such was the case involving a seemingly well-to-do couple living on Chicago’s North Shore, as they were recently sentenced in federal court for running a large-scale retail theft ring.

Federal Investigation

According to court records, federal authorities followed the couple as they, along with their children, embarked on a four-day, multi-state stealing spree. The couple reportedly went into stores like Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, and Starbucks, coming out with the wife’s dress “seemingly bursting at the seams,” as she attempted to hide stolen merchandise. The husband, wife, and their eldest daughter were arrested in March of 2014. In 2015, they reached a plea agreement with federal authorities in which they admitted to stealing more than $9.5 million in merchandise over the last 12 years.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyShoplifting, along with other forms of retail theft, cost retailers billions of dollars each year. It is perfectly reasonable for retail companies to take serious measures in protecting themselves from these types of losses. Sometimes, however, overzealous store personnel can focus their attention on the wrong individuals—people who have done nothing but come into the store to shop. A recent example in the Chicago suburb of Algonquin demonstrates how problematic false accusations of shoplifting can be, especially when social media becomes involved.

Targeting a 12-Year Old

Late last month, a 12-year-old girl and her 13-year-old friend were dropped off at the Target location in Algonquin, Illinois, to do some Christmas shopping. According to reports, the girls walked around the store for about an hour and a half, and each of them bought a few things. The girls say that a little while after they made their purchases—while they were waiting for their ride—store employees began following them. The 12-year-old told news outlets that one the employees accused them of shoplifting and told them to put back the items in their bags.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysOver the last three decades or so, the approach to crime in the United States has changed dramatically. In the past, communities have tried to fight criminal behavior with harsh penalties and long prison sentences. While the overall crime rate in the United States is lower than it was 20 or 30 years ago, the hardline approach to crime has—in the eyes of many—only served to fill our prisons and perpetuate a criminal lifestyle among convicted offenders. In an effort to stop the cycle of crime, Cook County introduced a program in 2011 that allows certain individuals accused of shoplifting, retail theft, and certain other non-violent crimes to avoid a conviction and prevent them from falling into a criminal lifestyle.

Deferred Prosecution Program

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office developed the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) as an alternative to traditional conviction and sentencing for adults charged with certain felonies. As a diversionary program, the DPP is intended to address the issues that led the person to commit the offense and to help them modify their behavior to avoid future crimes. To be considered for Deferred Prosecution, a criminal suspect must:

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysRetail theft in the form of shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the United States. It occurs so often that many retailers frequently do not even report incidents to the police because full participation in every alleged shoplifter’s prosecution would be impossible. Of course, when a shoplifter steals merchandise of a particularly high value, retailers are more likely to stay involved. According to Illinois law, stealing retail merchandise valued at $500 or more may constitute a felony offense. A recent announcement by Chicago’s top prosecutor, however, indicates that a significant change is coming regarding how Cook County will pursue felony charges for shoplifting.

New $1,000 Threshold

This past November, Kim Foxx was elected to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney after beating the incumbent Anita Alvarez in March’s Democratic primary. As one of her first major policy decisions, Foxx announced in December that she was amending prosecution guidelines for retail theft charges in Cook County. According to the Chicago Tribune, she has instructed county prosecutors that charges for retail theft, including shoplifting, should remain misdemeanors unless the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000 or the defendant has 10 or more prior felony convictions.

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