Shoplifting and Retail Theft Charges – What are the Consequences of a Conviction?

  • By:attyjjames

Recently, there has been a spike in shoplifting cases that has caused the Illinois Legislature to enact harsher penalties when it comes to retail theft.  Several major retailers, such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Target have reported an epidemic of thefts from their stores which is starting to have a significant impact on their bottom line.  This in turn has cause the Illinois Legislature to create House Bill 1091 which creates harsher penalties for “organized retail crime” and “smash and grab” offenses.  The new law and the enhanced penalties will go into effect on January 1, 2023. 

What is contained in the new law? 

Governor Pritzker has already signed the bill and has indicated that this legislation is not targeted at low-income parents trying to feed their children or kids making a short-sighted mistake.  Instead, the law targets sophisticated theft operations trying to turn a profit on the retail market.  Specifically, it makes organized retail crimes such as smash and grab jobs a felony with enhanced penalties.  Additionally, the law will require online marketplaces to gather information on people selling large amounts of items in order to crack down on these sophisticated theft rings. 

The new law will be codified at 720 ILCS 5/16-25.1 and is listed below. 

(a) An individual is guilty of organized retail crime when that individual, in concert with another individual … knowingly commits the act of retail theft from one or more retail mercantile establishments, and …
        (1) knowingly commits assault … on the Premises
        (2) knowingly commits a battery … on the premises
        (3) intentionally destroys … property of the establishment.
    (d) Sentence. A violation of paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection (a) is a Class 3 felony. A violation of paragraph (2) of subsection (a) is a Class 2 felony.

As you can see, any person committing retail theft under the new legislation, regardless of amount, would be guilty of a class 3 or class 2 felony when they are working in concert with other individuals and commit some kind of act of violence, such as assault, battery, or destruction or property.  This means they could possibly be sentenced up to 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections should they be found guilty. 

What are my options if I am charged with retail theft?

Retail theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, and if you are convicted, it can have an impact on immigration applications, college admissions, and employment opportunities.  Charges for retail theft can range from a class A misdemeanor all the way up to a class 2 felony.  Just because you are charged with retail theft, does not mean you must be convicted.  There are several mechanisms that are currently available that can lead to a dismissal of the charges and an eventual expungement of a criminal record. 

Deferred Prosecution Programs:

These programs are excellent ways for a person to avoid a conviction and have their case dismissed.  However, not every county has the resources to run a deferred prosecution program and its availability will be contingent on which county the case is being prosecuted.  For instance, Winnebago County has an excellent deferred prosecution program known as the DIVERT program whereby all charges will be dismissed pending the participant successfully completing certain tasks that usually include:  attendance in a theft awareness program, payment of restitution, and sometimes the performance of a certain number of hours of public service work.  The good part about these programs is that the participant will not have to plead guilty in court and the case will be immediately eligible for expungement once the program is completed. 

Court Supervision:

Court Supervision is also a great way to keep a criminal conviction off your record.  However, it does involve pleading guilty to the charge, paying a fine, and the completion of any additional conditions that the court may require.  These conditions may include:  Completion of a certain number of hours of public service work, counselling, and payment of restitution.  The term of court supervision is variable and may last up to 2 years.  Once the supervision term is complete, the case will be dismissed, but it will still show on your record as an arrest and a dismissal.  In order to get the case expunged, you must wait at least 2 years from the end of the supervision period and petition the court for the expungement of the records.  There is usually a filing fee associated with the expungement between $90-$180 depending on the county of prosecution.  Once the case is expunged, all records of the arrest will be destroyed. 

2nd Chance Probation:

If your case was charged as a felony, meaning the alleged amount of theft was over $300, then you may be eligible for Second Chance Probation.  This is similar to Court Supervision, in that you would enter a plea of guilty, however, there would not be a conviction on your record.  The case would be continued for 2 years, during which time you would have to complete all the requirements of probation, which will include:  monthly reporting to a probation officer, performing 30 hours of public service work, submitting to periodic drug testing with at least 3 test conducted during the probationary period, and paying restitution in the case.  Upon successful completion of the probation, the case will be dismissed.  The case would then be eligible for expungement 5 years after the successful completion of the probation. 

TASC Probation

Also known as Chapter 20 probation, TASC probation is for individuals who commit offenses where there is a substantial nexus between the offense charged and an alcohol or drug addiction.  TASC probation can be up to 4 years in length and will involve a temporary felony conviction during the pendency of the probation.  The benefit of TASC probation is once it is successfully completed, the case will be dismissed.  The case will be eligible for expungement 5 years from the successful completion of the probation. 

If you are charged with retail theft, a conviction can have life-long consequences.  We recommend consulting with an attorney immediately after being charged to discuss which options might be available to you for avoiding a conviction and getting the case expunged from your record. 

Written By:
Attorney Jonathan James
Rockford Criminal Defense Lawyer
Posted in: Criminal Defense
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