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Illinois Bill Would Reduce Felony Convictions for Retail Theft

Posted on in Criminal Law

Illinois Bill Would Reduce Felony Convictions for Retail TheftDo you know that Illinois has one of the strictest retail theft laws in the U.S.? Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony convictions for stealing items valued at $300 or more. Many other states require the value to be more than $1,000 before a retail theft conviction becomes a felony. Members of the Illinois House of Representatives are trying to change the law to raise the minimum value for a felony theft charge and reduce the number of offenders who end up in prison.

New Law

The proposed bill would make three changes to Illinois’ criminal code regarding theft:

  • Theft of property valued at less than $2,000 would be a Class A misdemeanor;
  • Theft of property valued at $2,000 or more would be a Class 4 felony; and
  • A second theft conviction of less than $2,000 would be a felony only if the first conviction was a felony.

Predictably, business owners have publicly opposed any raise to the minimum value required for a felony retail theft conviction. Illinois lawmakers have admitted that they may need to reduce the $2,000 threshold in order to pass the bill. However, raising the minimum to even $1,000 would be an improvement for the state.

The Effect

Some prosecutors in Illinois have unofficially raised the minimum value for felony retail theft charges. For instance, Cook County seeks a felony conviction for retail theft only if the items were valued at $1,000 or more. The proposed bill would force all prosecutors to raise their standards for felony retail theft charges. An Illinois commission recommended the changes as part of a study on ways to reduce the Illinois prison population. The study estimates that the changes would reduce the prison population by 1,100 inmates per year because:

  • A Class 4 felony conviction includes a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years in prison; and
  • For a Class A misdemeanor conviction, the prison term cannot be longer than a year.

Business owners fear that raising the minimum will embolden people to steal from their stores. However, states with a higher minimum have not seen an increase in the number of retail theft incidents. In fact, retail theft rates have fallen in the past 20 years.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

A shoplifting charge may seem minor, but the consequences for a conviction can be significant in Illinois. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you contest a theft charge. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.




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