Defending Against Shoplifting Criminal Charges in Chicago

Shoplifting is a common criminal charge in Chicago, encompassing a range of actions from stealing merchandise to altering price tags. The consequences of a shoplifting conviction can be significant, affecting not only legal records but also future employment opportunities and social reputation. Understanding the nuances of Illinois law regarding shoplifting, including how to defend against such charges, is essential for anyone involved in such a case.

Understanding Shoplifting Under Illinois Law

In Illinois, shoplifting is legally referred to as retail theft and is governed by the Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5/16-25. This law defines retail theft as knowingly taking possession of, carrying away, transferring, or causing to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use, or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value.

Legal Definitions Related to Shoplifting

  • Under-Ringing: Causing the cash register or other sales recording device to reflect less than the full retail value of the merchandise.
  • Alteration of Price Tags: Changing or swapping price tags to pay less than the item’s full value.
  • Theft by Deception: Convincing employees to sell the merchandise at a reduced price through deceit.
  • Possession of Theft Detection Shielding Devices: Using or possessing any tool specifically designed to shield merchandise from detection by theft sensors.

The severity of the charges can vary based on the value of the stolen goods, ranging from a Class A misdemeanor for items valued under $300, to a Class 4 felony for more expensive items or if the accused has a previous conviction of retail theft.

Penalties for Shoplifting in Illinois

The consequences of a shoplifting conviction depend on the value of the stolen items and the offender’s criminal history:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: For merchandise valued under $300, penalties can include up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
  • Class 4 Felony: For merchandise valued over $300, or any theft involving prior convictions, penalties include 1 to 3 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

The Arrest Process for Shoplifting in Chicago

When an individual is suspected of shoplifting, the typical process involves detainment by store security or police officers on the premises. The suspect is then handed over to the police who formally place them under arrest.

Upon arrest, suspects undergo a process where their personal information is recorded, and they are officially charged. The evidence is cataloged, which may include surveillance footage, witness statements, and recovered merchandise.

Navigating the Criminal Case Process

Initial Court Appearance

After an arrest, the accused will have their first court appearance where the charges are read, and a plea is entered. This is also where bail is typically set.

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase involves the exchange of evidence between the prosecution and defense. This includes all evidence the prosecution plans to use at trial, allowing the defense to prepare counterarguments.


If the case goes to trial, both sides will present their evidence, examine witnesses, and argue the case before a jury or judge. The defense’s goal is to create reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused.

Defense Strategies for Shoplifting Charges

Effective defense strategies may involve demonstrating that the accused did not intend to steal (e.g., forgetting to pay for an item), challenging the prosecution’s evidence as insufficient or unreliable, or negotiating plea deals for lesser charges based on mitigating circumstances.

The Role of a Defense Attorney

An experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial in navigating the complexities of a shoplifting case. From challenging the evidence and cross-examining witnesses to negotiating plea deals or dismissals, a skilled lawyer can significantly influence the outcome of the proceedings.

If you or someone you know is facing shoplifting charges in Chicago, immediate action to secure experienced legal representation is crucial. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg are committed to providing vigorous defense and personalized legal strategies to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.

Contact us 24/7 for a free consultation at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442. Serving clients across Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, and Lake County, we are here to help guide you through this challenging time and advocate on your behalf.

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