Theft Attorney Serving Chicago's West Suburbs
“Stop, thief!” is a cry that characterized early American movies. For instance, a woman walking down the street has her handbag stolen and the perpetrator flees the scene on foot. Of course, the actual crime of theft has many more layers than a simple cinema scene. Theft can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on what is being unlawfully taken and what its value is.
In this age of the World Wide Web, theft can even be of the cyber type – hackers can steal your identity, your credit card information, your bank account, and as many TV commercials now warn us, even the title to your home. In some cities, shoplifting and store break-ins have become so pervasive and impossible to prevent that major chains are even vacating their locations.
If you are under investigation or being charged with a crime involving theft in Chicago’s West Suburbs, contact me immediately at the Mockaitis Law Group LLC. I am a former Assistant State Attorney and now a criminal defense attorney who understands how prosecutors formulate their cases.
I will work with you to tailor a defense aimed at obtaining the best possible result, either pretrial or during trial. My office is in Oswego, so reach out as soon as a potential criminal charge looms. Your initial consultation is free.
What Is Theft in Illinois?
Illinois Compiled Statutes regarding theft include several phrases to describe the act, including “obtains or exerts unauthorized control,” “obtains by deception,” “obtains by theft,” “obtains and exerts control” and “intends to deprive” the property of another person. The statutes then break down the crime into degrees of criminal liability, ranging from a misdemeanor to five levels of felony. As the charge rises, so do the potential penalties.
What Is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is also covered by the statutes. It is illegal under the law while in a retail establishment to:
take possession and carry away merchandise
alter, remove or switch price tags
transfer merchandise from one container to another
return or attempt to exchange merchandise by falsely claiming to be the owner
use or possess a theft-detection shielding device or remover
Note also that you don’t have to actually leave the store with the merchandise to be charged. If you’re caught, for instance, with a product concealed in your coat or handbag, you can be charged.
Levels of Theft: Misdemeanors and Felonies
The basic differentiating factor in whether theft is a misdemeanor or felony is the nature and value of what’s being taken. For instance, in shoplifting, if the item is worth $300 or less, it’s a misdemeanor. Above that, it’s a Class 3 felony (Class 2 if you use an emergency exit to escape with the goods).
A theft misdemeanor can be charged if the value is $500 or less and it is not taken from a person. The penalty can be a jail term of less than one year and a fine of no more than $2,500, plus restitution to the owner.
However, even if the value of the property is less than $500, it can be charged as a Class 4 felony if the offense takes place in a school or place of worship; if the property belongs to the government; or if the offender has a previous conviction for theft, robbery, burglary or forgery. The penalties then rise to up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, along with restitution.
For property or services valued at $500 or less AND taken from a person, the crime then becomes a Class 3 felony. The charge is the same if the value is between $500 and $10,000 BUT NOT taken from a person. The penalties include two to five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, plus restitution.
There are three more levels of felonies: Class 2, Class 1 and Class X. Once again, how those are charged depends on the item’s value and the circumstances of the theft.
Defenses to a Theft Charge
As in any arrest and potential charge, authorities must observe a person’s constitutional rights. If there is, for example, an unlawful search and seizure leading to one’s arrest or subsequent charge, that can become a constitutional challenge.
Likewise, if authorities had no probable cause to arrest you in the first place, and if authorities failed to read you your Miranda Rights warning — which advises that “Anything you say can and will be used against you” — those actions can also be challenged to dismiss the case.
Other defensive arguments include that you lacked intent to engage in theft. Another is that you lacked control over the item in question. You can also argue that you had a legitimate claim to the property. These defenses obviously will hinge on the circumstances of the alleged offense.
Theft Attorney Serving Chicago’s West Suburbs
If you are being taken in for questioning, contact me immediately. I will present your side of the story to prosecutors to potentially get the charge lowered or even dropped. If matters do go to trial, I will develop a strong and aggressive strategy to protect your rights. Reach out to the Mockaitis Law Group LLC if you’re in Chicago’s West Suburbs. Your first consultation is always free.