IL Felony Charges for Stealing Toiletries? Here’s How It Can Happen
Some people assume that shoplifting is a minor crime. However, in Illinois, it’s anything but. Illinois has some of the harshest shoplifting laws on record. It’s all too easy for a momentary lapse of judgment to lead to serious felony charges.
That’s just what happened to one Illinois man recently. He is now facing five felony charges for allegedly stealing a few bottles of body wash, nails, lotion, and hand sanitizer from a Walgreens.
While he has a previous shoplifting conviction on record, it was from 2004. Today, he is at risk of becoming a convicted felon because of the theft of a few common toiletries.
Current Illinois Shoplifting Laws
Illinois is one of just a few states that have specific criminal convictions for shoplifting, otherwise known as retail theft. Most other states incorporate shoplifting into their general theft laws. As a result, Illinois is one of the few places where shoplifting can quickly become a felony offense.
Shoplifting in Illinois is defined as intentionally depriving a merchant of the full retail value of their product. This can include anything from simply taking products without paying for them to using false coupons.
It’s even possible to be charged simply for intending to steal from the business without successfully removing any merchandise.
Two Penalty Levels for Shoplifting in Illinois
There are two general penalty levels for shoplifting in Illinois: penalties for stealing less than $300 and penalties for stealing more than $300.
Stealing less than $300 from a business is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois for a first offense. This can lead to up to a year in prison and fines up to $2500. However, shoplifting less than $300 can be elevated to a felony for two reasons.
First, if the goods are stolen by leaving a store through an emergency exit, the crime becomes a Class 4 felony. Second, if the alleged theft is a second or subsequent offense for retail theft, it’s also considered a Class 4 felony. That can lead to up to 3 years in prison, fines of up to $25,000, and permanent status as a convicted felon.
The Illinois man who is now facing multiple felony charges fell under that second exception. For stealing less than $50 worth of toiletries, he could be facing years in prison.
Stealing more than $300 through retail theft is also considered a felony. In this case, it’s a Class 3 felony, carrying up to 5 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Stealing more than $300 worth of products through an emergency exit is considered a Class 2 felony, the second-most serious level of crime in Illinois, and can lead to up to 7 years in prison.
The Potential for Legislative Change
While these penalties sound harsh, there may be a change coming. Slowly but surely, a bill is being moved through the Illinois legislature that’s intended to lower penalties for retail theft.
This bill is intended to raise the threshold for felony charges for retail theft, and more appropriately applying penalties for the crime. A second offense would not necessarily be considered a felony. The threshold for felony charges would be raised to $1,000 instead of $300.
All told, this change is not here yet. Currently, a second offense retail theft charge carries the same penalties as aggravated assault, which is patently unfair to everyone.
If you have been accused of shoplifting, you’re facing serious trouble. Your first step should be to reach out to a qualified Illinois defense attorney to defend yourself from unjust charges and penalties.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.