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Cook County Prosecutor Announces Change to Felony Charges for Shoplifting

 Posted on January 13, 2017 in Theft

Chicago criminal defense attorneysRetail theft in the form of shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the United States. It occurs so often that many retailers frequently do not even report incidents to the police because full participation in every alleged shoplifter’s prosecution would be impossible. Of course, when a shoplifter steals merchandise of a particularly high value, retailers are more likely to stay involved. According to Illinois law, stealing retail merchandise valued at $500 or more may constitute a felony offense. A recent announcement by Chicago’s top prosecutor, however, indicates that a significant change is coming regarding how Cook County will pursue felony charges for shoplifting.

New $1,000 Threshold

This past November, Kim Foxx was elected to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney after beating the incumbent Anita Alvarez in March’s Democratic primary. As one of her first major policy decisions, Foxx announced in December that she was amending prosecution guidelines for retail theft charges in Cook County. According to the Chicago Tribune, she has instructed county prosecutors that charges for retail theft, including shoplifting, should remain misdemeanors unless the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000 or the defendant has 10 or more prior felony convictions.

Foxx’s intentions reflect similar recommendations that were made by her predecessor but never put into action. They also represent somewhat of a departure from Illinois state law which allows felony charges for shoplifting to filed when the value of the stolen property exceeds $500 or the defendant has a single prior felony conviction. A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office clarified that each case will be handled individually and felony charges may still be warranted in certain situations.

Saving Time and Resources

Reports indicate that between 2010 and 2012, almost 80 percent of all felony retail theft cases in Illinois involved stolen property of less than $1,000. The Tribune also reported that, as of December, more than 100 individuals were sitting in Cook County Jail on felony retail theft charges, many of whom have spent months in jail waiting for trial because they cannot afford bail. As result, many will have spent more time locked up than required by their eventual sentence. In 2015, these so-called “dead days”—time served but not actually sentenced—cost Cook County taxpayers more than $675,000.

Proponents of the new guidelines include community activists and even public defenders. They believe that reducing the number of felony charges will help facilitate a renewed focus on rehabilitating nonviolent offenders rather than condemning them to a life as a convicted felon.

Get Help With Your Shoplifting Charge

If you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting, the penalties could be very serious, even for a misdemeanor. Contact an experienced Chicago retail theft defense attorney to discuss your case. Call 773-276-5541 for a free consultation at Luisi Legal Group today.





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