Keeping your record clean after an arrest for retail theft

by Sami Azhari on October 19, 2014

Illinois Retail Theft Laws

Getting arrested for retail theft can have serious consequences on someone’s future. If someone is caught committing retail theft, they will typically be approached by a loss prevention specialist or an agent of the store after they have completed a purchase of any other items, or walked by the registers without paying. Store agents will wait until the suspect has walked past the registers because they are the “last point of sale,” and the suspect’s last chance to pay for the stolen merchandise. After being approached the defendant will be asked to accompany the store agents to a back room and empty out their pockets or purse. Once an item of the store is discovered, the police will be contacted. It is best not to say anything or make any unnecessary admissions, as those could be damaging in the criminal case.

The retail theft statute is 720 ILCS 5/16-25. It provides that retail theft is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. However, if the value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $300, then the charge becomes a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The higher the value of the stolen merchandise, the more serious the charges become. Once charged a defendant will be given a court date.

The best resolution to a retail theft case, like any other criminal case, is a dismissal. Thankfully, certain counties have a theft diversion program, which allows the defendant to complete a theft school program, or perform community service. Once the program or the community service is complete, the defendant must return to court and show proof of completion. The charges against the defendant are then dismissed. This is also known as deferred prosecution. It allows the court to suspend the case while the defendant completes the required program or community service.

Regardless of the dismissal, the arrest remains on the defendant’s record. For a clean record, the defendant must file a petition for expungement. A judge will then have the ability to grant or deny that request.


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