Retail Theft Criminal Charges in Illinois

Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C.

Understanding and Defending Against Charges under 720 ILCS 5/16-25 in Illinois

In Illinois, retail theft is a crime that involves the unauthorized taking of merchandise from a retail establishment with the intent to deprive the merchant of its full value. Governed by statute 720 ILCS 5/16-25, this offense covers a range of activities beyond simple shoplifting, including altering price tags, under-ringing merchandise, and even the unauthorized use of shopping carts. Let’s now discuss the statute, legal definitions, the criminal process, and potential defenses to help individuals understand and navigate these charges.

Statutory Definitions

The Illinois Compiled Statutes define retail theft as knowingly taking possession of, carrying away, transferring, or causing to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale in a retail establishment with the intent of retaining such merchandise or otherwise depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use, or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value.

Key Components of the Statute

  • Under-Ringing: This involves manipulating the checkout process to pay less than the full retail price.
  • Tag Switching: Replacing the price tag of an item with a tag from a less expensive item.
  • Theft by Deception: Convincing an employee to sell merchandise at a reduced price through deception.

Potential Penalties for Retail Theft

The consequences of retail theft in Illinois can vary significantly based on the value of the stolen items and the circumstances of the theft:

  • Items valued under $300: Typically classified as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
  • Items valued over $300, or if the individual has a previous conviction for retail theft, it escalates to a Class 4 felony, with potential penalties including 1 to 3 years in state prison and fines up to $25,000.
  • Aggravated Retail Theft: Involving more complex schemes or the use of emergency exits to facilitate the theft, which may lead to more severe felony charges.

The Arrest Process for Retail Theft

Initial Detention

Individuals suspected of retail theft may be detained by store security personnel who witness the act. Store personnel often have the right to detain suspected shoplifters until law enforcement arrives.

Law Enforcement Involvement

Once police officers arrive at the scene, they will assess the situation, review any evidence provided by the store, and decide whether to make a formal arrest based on the evidence. If arrested, the individual will be taken to the police station for booking.

Navigating the Criminal Case Process


The first court appearance is the arraignment, where the accused will hear the formal charges and enter a plea. It is crucial to have legal representation at this stage to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.


During the discovery phase, the defense team will obtain all evidence that the prosecution intends to use at trial. This may include surveillance footage, witness statements, and records of the accused’s actions within the store.

Pre-Trial Motions

The defense may file motions to suppress evidence if there were violations in the manner in which evidence was collected or if there were breaches of the accused’s rights during the arrest or detention process.


At trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed retail theft as defined by the statute. The defense will challenge the prosecution’s evidence, offer alternative explanations for the accused’s actions, and highlight any procedural mistakes that could affect the legitimacy of the state’s case.

Conclusion and Call to Action

If you or someone you know is facing charges of retail theft in Illinois, it is imperative to seek skilled legal representation immediately. The consequences of a conviction extend beyond fines and jail time, potentially affecting future employment opportunities and personal reputation.

Contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg to ensure your rights are vigorously defended. With extensive experience in criminal defense and a deep understanding of Illinois retail theft laws, we are committed to providing the best possible defense for our clients. Call Attorney David Freidberg 24/7 at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442 for a free consultation. Serving clients across Chicago and the surrounding counties, we are here to help guide you through this challenging time and work towards the best possible outcome in your case.

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