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Illinois Shoplifting Laws

There are many ways that you can be charged with shoplifting in Illinois. Unlike other states that just incorporate shoplifting under their general theft statutes, Illinois has laws specifically targeting retail theft.

Shoplifting Defined

Under the most basic form of shoplifting in Illinois, it's a crime to take, possess, carry away or transfer any retail merchandise, but only where a prosecutor can prove intent either to retain the property or to permanently deprive the merchant of its full value. Under this definition, if you paid for merchandise, you could still face possible retail theft charges if you didn't pay the full retail value and intended to deprive a merchant of that full value.

Illinois also specifically defines certain retail theft situations where a person may intentionally deprive a merchant of the full retail value of merchandise, to include:

  • Altering, transferring or removing any label or price tag;
  • Transferring any merchandise from one container into another;
  • Under-ringing merchandise (causing a register to reflect less than full value);
  • Misrepresenting ownership of property to a merchant; or
  • Using or possessing a theft detection shielding device.

The intent requirement can be hard for a prosecutor to prove, but Illinois law allows courts to infer intent to retain merchandise or deprive a merchant of full value where there is evidence that the defendant:

  • Concealed merchandise; and
  • Removed merchandise beyond the last known station for receiving payments.

In addition, Illinois also recognizes the separate crime of theft by emergency exit. While the particular exit used during a retail theft may not seem like a big deal, it actually could mean the difference between a misdemeanor or a felony and could result in harsher penalties on conviction.

Illinois Shoplifting Laws at a Glance

The chart below contains more specific information on Illinois shoplifting laws.


Illinois Statutes Section 5/16-25 (retail theft)

Illinois Statutes Section 5/16-26 (allowing reasonable detention by merchants - shopkeeper's privilege)

Illinois Statutes Section 5/16-27 (civil liability for retail theft)

Illinois Statutes Section 5/16-28 (delivery container theft)

Possible Penalties

The penalties for retail theft vary based on the value of the items stolen, as noted below:

Under $300: A first offense is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by under 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent offenses constitute Class 4 Felonies punishable by between 1-3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. A first offense can also constitute a Class 4 Felony if it involves theft by emergency exit of property.

Over $300: This is a Class 3 Felony punishable by between 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. If it involves emergency exit of property, it constitutes a Class 2 Felony punishable by 3-7 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.


General defenses to theft include:

  • Mistake of fact (ownership)
  • Lack of intent
  • Return of property
  • Entrapment
  • Impaired mental state/insanity/intoxication

For more information on general defenses to theft, see Theft Defenses.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Illinois Shoplifting Laws: Related Resources

Charged With Shoplifting in Illinois? An Attorney Can Help You

As you can see, small details during a retail theft, such as the use of an emergency exit, can have a significant impact if you're convicted under Illinois shoplifting laws. If you're not an attorney -- and even if you are -- it's always in your best interests to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney when charged with a crime. Learn more about these laws, their impact, and how to defend against charges from an Illinois defense attorney near you.

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