When people think of shoplifting, they normally associate it with of theft. While the two can sometimes be basically the same, it is important to note that some laws draw a distinction between the two. While theft is generally defined as a person knowingly taking something from an individual with the intention of depriving the owner of the property in question, shoplifting may not necessarily require that merchandise even leave a store. Illinois has a separate statute that covers it under the category of retail theft.
There are many other states that have specifically created shoplifting laws that state that concealing merchandise with the intent to remove it from a property is illegal. In some locations, altering price tags or setting up a situation where someone is able to pay less for the merchandise than what it is worth is also considered shoplifting.
People should also note that the severity of charges and penalties for shoplifting may vary depending on the circumstances. Someone who is charged with shoplifting guns or incendiary devices is likely to face stiffer penalties that a person accused of stealing clothing or makeup. Additionally, prior convictions for shoplifting or having allegedly stolen merchandise that is very valuable may also increase the penalties for conviction.
Although misdemeanors often carry lighter penalties than felonies, people should not assume being charged with this type of crime isn’t serious. Many employers run background checks now, and a conviction may reduce a person’s chances of obtaining employment. Additionally, some misdemeanors still carry penalties of jail time. A lawyer may be able to assist someone in building a defense or help to arrange a plea bargain that reduces the potential penalties for conviction.
Source: Illinois Compiled Statutes, “Sec. 16-25. Retail theft.”, accessed on Dec. 30, 2015