Many times a potential client will ask me “Why do I need a Lawyer for a retail theft when they say I only took a: (Shirt, Bottle of Liquor, Candy Bar, Batteries, Baby Formula, etc…)?" Like speeding tickets it seems that people just don’t take these types of cases seriously, but not handling these cases the right way can lead to many different serious issues down the road that could have been avoided. The short answer to the question is, yes, you need an experienced criminal lawyer to handle your case and I will now explain why in greater detail.
The Initial Consequences
Retail Theft can be considered a misdemeanor or felony offense in Illinois and Wisconsin depending on the retail value of the item and the defendant’s prior convictions for retail theft or other theft related offenses. This means very often the possible sentence for these cases could be jail or prison time, which is certainly reason enough to have a qualified Criminal Defense Attorney on your side. Probation and Court Supervision are other potential sentences and for first offenders there is also the possibility of a deferred prosecution depending on the jurisdiction of the offense. A deferred prosecution usually involves the defendant attending an informational anti-theft behavioral course or some amount of community service. If satisfactorily completed the State will then dismiss or drop all charges against the defendant. There is also the option of going to trial before a judge or jury to challenge the retail theft charge. With these many options and possibilities it becomes obvious why a person would need to consult with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to determine their best course of action when facing these charges.
The Future Consequences
After the retail theft case is handled in court in some instances even more serious consequences can occur in the future if the case is not handled properly. If a person is not a citizen of the United States the crime of retail theft can have serious consequences such as deportation from the United States or exclusion from admission to the United States. Even for citizens of the United States the consequences may be severe. As a crime of moral turpitude, retail thefts that show up in background checks will commonly adversely affect a person’s job or school prospects. A prior retail theft can also serve to enhance a second retail theft to a felony offense. As you can see from this discussion there is a lot at stake and these cases should most definitely be handled with great care.
Managing the Consequences and Making the Right Decision in the Case
Absorbing all the potential dispositions and consequences can be overwhelming and each case carries unique facts and circumstances. Different court locations and Prosecutors may also have different approaches to these cases. Our office handles every type of Retail Theft case in almost every court in Illinois and Wisconsin and will advise you on your best alternatives.