Being arrested or cited for retail theft/shoplifting under Illinois Criminal Statute 720 ILCS 5/16A-3 can lead to serious criminal, civil and economic consequences. A person arrested for the first time has the opportunity to protect themselves during their criminal case, as well as, in their future if they know how to approach their case.

By law, a first time retail theft arrest with a value under $300 is classified as a Class A misdemeanor and carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine. If the value of the items taken is above $300, Illinois classifies the retail theft as a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in prison along with a fine of up to $25,000. Being prepared and having strong and informed representation can protect you from serious legal consequences.

While each case is determined individually based on the facts and nature of the events, certain options are available to those arrested and charged with retail theft/shoplifting.

1. Supervision

Supervision is a sentence of “good behavior" in which, if the defendant does not pick up new arrests or violate any other terms of the supervision, will result in a non-conviction on the defendant’s record. While receiving a sentence of supervision does avoid imprisonment and a conviction, the consequences of a sentence of supervision last far longer than the supervision itself. An individual who receives supervision must wait 5 years after the termination of the supervision to petition the court for an expungement or sealing of their record. Employers routinely perform background checks and an arrest of retail theft/shoplifting oftentimes eliminates applicants from employment. This can be avoided.

2. Deferred Prosecution

Deferred prosecution is an opportunity for first time offenders to avoid a conviction, jail time or supervision. With proper negotiations and preparation by the defense, defendants can receive a deferred prosecution and be required to complete a theft-deterrent program. This is a class that is completed by the defendant, and upon proof of completion, will result in the prosecution dismissing the retail theft/shoplifting charges against the defendant. If the case is dismissed, the record of arrest and court proceedings can be expunged immediately as opposed to requiring the 5 year waiting period under a sentence of supervision.

3. Community Service

An additional option for defendants is community service. If the theft-deterrent program is not applicable or not available, community service is an alternative option. Similar to the theft-deterrent program, when the community service is completed, it will result in the prosecution dismissing the retail theft/shoplifting charges against the defendant. Again, if the case is dismissed, the record of arrest and court proceedings can be expunged immediately as opposed to requiring the 5 year waiting period under a sentence of supervision.

Even if you are arrested for retail theft/shoplifting, you can protect yourself in many ways with the proper information and you do not have to suffer the consequences of a retail theft/shoplifting arrest on your record for years afterwards.

Purav Bhatt is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Chicago, Cook, DuPage and Lake counties. Please contact Mr. Bhatt if you have been arrested for retail theft/shoplifting and would like to discuss your options at 773-791-9682.