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Appeals Court Rejects Felony Sentence for Theft of Batteries from Pharmacy Due to Lack of Notice Regarding Enhancement

The law contains various provisions for enhancing seemingly minor crimes into more substantial ones if the accused has a criminal history. In fact, one man recently received a 18-month prison sentence for stealing batteries from a Walgreens store. The Illinois Appellate Court invalidated that sentence, though, since the state did not give the accused man the proper notice that it intended to prosecute his retail theft case as a felony.

The law contains various provisions for enhancing seemingly minor crimes into more substantial ones if the accused has a criminal history. In fact, one man recently received a 18-month prison sentence for stealing batteries from a Walgreens store. The Illinois Appellate Court invalidated that sentence, though, since the state did not give the accused man the proper notice that it intended to prosecute his retail theft case as a felony.

Jameica Brown was arrested and charged with two counts of retail theft of property valued at less than $300 for stealing some batteries from a Walgreens store. The state did not indicate whether it intended to pursue Brown's crime as a misdemeanor or a felony, but it did make mention of the fact that Brown had been convicted previously for stealing. At trial, the state established that Brown had stolen from Walgreens before. Brown was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison, a Class 4 felony sentence.

Brown appealed the sentence. His sentence was improper, he argued, since the prosecutors never gave him notice that they intended to introduce his previous theft conviction and to use it to enhance his current theft charge to a felony matter.

The man specifically asserted that the prosecution's conduct of the case violated 725 ILCS 5/111-3, the statute that governs what must be included in a document charging a person with a crime. That law demands that the prosecution, when seeking to use a prior conviction to open the door to a more severe sentence on the current crime, expressly state its intent to do so and indicate what prior conviction it intends to present to the court.

He also argued that the document charging him did not satisfy the retail theft statute, 720 ILCS 5/16A-10. Subsection 2 of that statute spells out that, in general, the crime of retail theft of property worth less than $300 is a Class A misdemeanor but that, if the accused has been previously convicted of any sort of theft, burglary, or robbery crime, the current crime can constitute a Class 4 felony. If that's the case, the statute requires the state to include sufficient information in the document charging the accused to put the accused on notice that it intends to pursue the matter as a felony case.

The appeals court determined that the sentence was improper. While the document charging Brown with the most recent Walgreens theft made mention of the prior theft conviction, it did not state that the prosecution would be using that prior conviction as the basis for enhancing the current theft from a misdemeanor to a felony matter. The court agreed with Brown that, given Section 111-3's use of the word "and," the law required the state both to list the previous conviction and expressly state that it was going after the current crime as a felony.

Every criminal charge, even something as mundane as a theft of batteries from a pharmacy, can be a serious matter and should be treated as such. If you're facing a criminal charge, you need experienced and determined legal counsel protecting you. Consult the DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent to discuss your options and, if you go to trial, make sure that the prosecutors and the courts handling your case follow the law and do not infringe your rights.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

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