In the state of Illinois, there is no specific charge of “shoplifting” which means that a person accused of shoplifting is often charged with Theft under 720 ILCS 5/16-1. As discussed below, there are also other charges that can be brought, which are often more serious than such a theft charge.
In most cases in Illinois, theft of property under $500 results in a misdemeanor charge, while theft of property that is more valuable is a felony, with the class of felony becoming more serious as the value of the property increases.
A theft conviction – even one that is a misdemeanor – can have a significant negative effect upon a person for years. That is because theft is classified as a crime of dishonesty, which can prevent a person who has been convicted of theft from obtaining a professional license that is needed to become a nurse, a CNA, an attorney, a physician, an engineer, etc. Being convicted of theft can also cause a person issues should they need to testify in court within 10 years of the end of their sentence for theft, as that theft conviction (and the legal implication that they are a dishonest person) can be used against them in court.
Prosecutors in Illinois will sometimes charge a person with Burglary, which is a felony, if they are accused of shoplifting. The legal theory behind such a charge is that Burglary in Illinois involves entering a building to commit a theft (or certain other crimes) in that building, and that a person who enters a store to commit a theft is therefore committing a burglary. Since burglary is a much more serious charge than the theft charge that accompanies a “normal” shoplifting case, it is especially important to handle such a burglary charge properly.
Sometimes an alleged shoplifting incident in Illinois will become even more serious when the situation leads to a robbery charge. That usually comes about when a person is accused of hitting, shoving, otherwise harming, or threatening an employee of the store during the attempted shoplifting or escape. Such an incident, even if there is no serious harm to the employee, can turn what would be a misdemeanor theft charge into a very serious felony robbery charge that carries mandatory prison upon conviction.