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IL defense lawyerEach year, inventory shrinkage due to theft or shoplifting causes the U.S. retail industry to lose over $45 billion. This is why most stores have placed an increased focus on loss prevention strategies. In the state of Illinois, retail theft is taken very seriously and comes with severe consequences. If you get caught trying to shoplift an item, the situation is not as easy to resolve as just paying for the item and going on your way. If you are caught shoplifting, you will be charged with retail theft, which can easily turn into a felony, depending on the circumstances of your case.

General Definition

When you think of retail theft, you probably think of the first definition of retail theft in the Illinois Penal Code. According to the code, a person commits retail theft when he or she takes possession of any merchandise in a retail establishment with the intention of retaining the merchandise and permanently depriving the retail establishment of the merchandise without paying for it. General retail theft is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. While this is the most common form of retail theft, it does come in other forms.

Other Retail Theft

Contrary to what many people may believe, there is more than one form of retail theft. In Illinois, the following offenses are also punished as retail theft:

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IL defense attorneyOne of the most common crimes that teenagers commit is retail theft, or shoplifting. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Unified Crime Report, over 100,000 Americans under the age of 18 were charged with larceny in 2016. Everyone makes mistakes - especially teenagers. That is why it is so important to understand the repercussions that can come from one, small bad decision made in the heat of the moment. Here are four things you need to know about retail theft.

It is Not Usually Premeditated

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), an estimated 73 percent of adults and 72 percent of juvenile shoplifters do not plan to shoplift in advance. Typically, it is a spur-of-the-moment decision. For teens, especially, peer pressure, impulses and a general lack of judgment all combine to cause unplanned thefts.

Retailers Typically Punish Shoplifters to the Full Extent of the Law

The offender is not the only one who loses when they are caught shoplifting - police and courts are busy dealing with petty thefts when they should be focusing on more important things, the costs of goods are driven up because of losses and communities lose sales tax revenue. This is why retailers have begun punishing offenders to the full extent of the law - to deter others from shoplifting.

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IL defense lawyerShoplifting may seem like a petty crime, and some people may even consider it a right of passage. However, shoplifting charges can be a dark stain on your criminal record and show up when you apply for housing or a job.

In Illinois, to be convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting, or retail theft as lawyers and courts call it, there are several elements that must be proven. Perhaps the most common way someone shoplifts is when “he or she knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner.”

Thus, the state must prove that you knowingly shoplifted. It is not enough to be caught in possession of items allegedly stolen. The state must prove that you knew what you were doing. This can be difficult to prove in some cases and may be a valid defense.

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