Shoplifting or retail fraud can affect both the business that loses products and customers patronizing the business. In Illinois, it is illegal to steal from a person or a business.
Yet, many people assume that the charges for such offenses will be minor, especially if they do not have a prior criminal record. Some people learn the hard way that Illinois prosecutors can bring felony charges against people for a single theft incident.
When does theft become a felony offense in Illinois?
The state’s theft laws are complex
There are several aggravating factors that could lead to felony charges against someone accused of a theft offense. Offenses that endanger others, including armed robbery or burglary, might lead to felony charges. Other times, the main factor influencing how the prosecutor addresses the situation is the value of the property involved. For standard theft charges, prosecutors can pursue felony charges once the value of the resources stolen reaches $500.
Anyone accused of theft of property worth less than $500 typically faces Class A misdemeanor charges. The potential penalties for such offenses include up to 364 days in state custody and $2,500 in fines. However, if the person accused had a prior conviction for a theft offense, the state can pursue Class 4 felony charges. If the property is worth more than $500, the defendant may face Class 3 felony charges. The penalties include between five and 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
The rules are different for cases involving allegations of shoplifting. The threshold for a felony offense is actually lower when the victim is a business. Those accused of shoplifting from a retail establishment could face felony charges if the merchandise involved is worth $300 or more. Otherwise, felony charges are likely.
There are many ways for people to defend against pending theft charges. Often, what looks like an attempt to steal may have an innocent explanation. Those accused of a theft offense that might end in felony charges may have more incentive than the average person to take their case to trial. Understanding the laws that govern theft prosecution in Illinois can help someone determine the best defense against their pending charges.