Illinois Juvenile and Criminal Shoplifting Cases and Civil Recovery Laws
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?Loss prevention may detain suspects "in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time." This does not constitute an arrest. Only if the police get involved may an arrest be made. Scuffling with a store security agent acting in his or her lawful capacity, whether or not injury results, is a felony. The limitations that apply to police do not apply to store employees. For example, a security guard does not have to read a person his or her rights, or wait for a juvenile's parent, before questioning the suspect.
After confirming that a theft occurred (theft may be proven even if the offender never left the store as long as intent to steal can be shown) and the subject's identity, and notifying a minor's parent/guardian, the next thing typically done is to ban the alleged shoplifter from entering the store/mall again.
Meanwhile they will use their discretion to decide whether or not to involve the police or simply release the person with a banishment order.
AM I SERIOUSLY BANNED FROM GOING BACK THERE?Or, if I'm banned from one Kohl's, can I go to another Kohl's? Your banishment notice should be, but need not be, tendered in writing. Read it. It may or may not be for a fixed length of time. It may specify a particular location of a chain. Violating the ban after being notified you are not welcome, just like retail theft of merchandise with a retail value under $150*, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or any combination of the two, among other conditions.
*Certain conditions could result in retail theft of merchandise valued under $150 being classed as a felony.
HOW CAN THEY ASK FOR SO MUCH WHEN IT ONLY COST SO LITTLE?Under Illinois law merchants who have been victimized by retail theft are entitled to sue the perpetrator in civil court. If the offender is a minor, the parents are civilly liable. Retailers are allowed to recover the following:
(i) Actual damages equal to the full retail value of the merchandise;
(ii) An amount not less than $100 nor more than $1,000; plus
(iii) Attorney's fees and court costs.
Merchants, most often retail chains, contract with an attorney or a law firm to send out form letters to everyone the store catches shoplifting. The letters are commonly called "civil demand letters." It doesn't matter if the offender was found guilty or not guilty. It doesn't even matter if the alleged shoplifter was never arrested and charged with retail theft. Even if the store got its merchandise back and there was no damage to it, the store may still try to collect something. They play the odds, sending these letters by the thousands, hoping somebody pays it.
I'VE GOTTEN ONE OF THOSE LETTERS--WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?First thing is, relax. The letter may use words like calling the payment a "fine," but stores and their lawyers can't impose fines, only judges can. Payment of the demand is no guarantee that the case will not go to court or diversion. If the store didn't contact the police right away, there's a good chance that the alleged shoplifter will never have to go to court for the incident. Even if the demand letter is ignored, there is also a good chance that no lawsuit will result. Even though the statute allows the retailer to recover attorney's fees and costs, it still winds up being too costly to pursue these civil demands because there is no guarantee that a judge will actually order attorney's fees. Thus, the merchant would be out hundreds or thousands of dollars to sue a person for a $5 trinket that the store was able to recover and turn around and sell. I have never known a client to be sued, had bill collectors come after them, or be prosecuted just because they didn't pay up.