Retail Theft Statute

Understanding the Risks of Retail Theft in Illinois

by Sami Z Azhari on February 23, 2016

“It was only a shirt.” “No one was looking.” “I think it’s just a misdemeanor anyway.” If these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, it is important to take a step back and understand the significant disruption a retail theft conviction could have on your life. Theft crimes throughout the country are on the rise and the punishments associated with these crimes should be taken very seriously.

“Retail theft” spans beyond taking an item you did not pay for from a store. Under 720 ILCS 5/16-25, retail theft may also include:

  • Price switching (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(2))
  • Under-ringing (think of a self-scan situation) (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(4))
  • Using or possessing a theft detecting shielding device (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(7))
  • Misappropriating for personal use (usually if you have privileges from working at a store)
  • Representing that you are the owner or stolen property in attempt to get a refund from the store (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(6))

If charged with a first shoplifting offense, it will likely be either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 4 felony. The categorization depends on the value of the item or items stolen, whether the individual has previously been convicted of a crime, and if, so, the nature of the prior crime. The severity of the crime, in terms of whether is a misdemeanor (less severe) or a felony (more severe) will also be dictated by the value of the items stolen.

A Class A misdemeanor is the most severe level of misdemeanors, but the least harsh of all possible convictions for shoplifting. A person found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor may:

  • Serve up to one year in jail
  • May be fined up to $2,500
  • May be required to pay restitution (pay for the items stolen, plus possible other associated costs)

In addition to criminal penalties, storeowners may seek other forms of restitution, the court may implement additional fines, or may petition for the offender to pay attorney’s fees and associated court costs. Felony convictions carry more severe punishments; a Class 4 felony will land a convicted individual 1-3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. People charged with a misdemeanor shoplifting offense that shoplift again will face felony charges, which demonstrates the severity of retail theft.

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