An Overview Of Theft Charges In The State Of Illinois

Interviewer: What are the different types of thefts that people get charged for?

Fred Dry: It could be shoplifting which is theft. There could be just an ordinary kind of theft where you’re invited into a place and you take something from there. Or you receive something knowing it’s stolen – and of course with all these things it’s not only the taking but the intent to keep it. Like lawyers would say, ‘the intent to permanently deprive’. There are other types of thefts, I mean a bad check is a theft but it’s not usually charged as theft.

Larceny is Defined as Illegally Taking Control of Property and then Taking It Away

Interviewer: What people sometimes refer to as larceny. What’s included inside that bracket?

Fred Dry: Well larceny is an old term from the common law. Some states still retain the term but basically it means taking property and then taking it away – taking control of it and then taking it away. In old times they used to call it assportation. It’s transferring the good that, you know, you took unauthorized control of.

The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery

Interviewer: What are some of the fundamental differences between burglary and robbery?

Fred Dry: Burglary is when you enter into somebody else’s premises – whether it’s a store or a home an apartment, whatever, you’re going in there and you might be going in there to commit some crime – it might be theft, it might be some other crime. Usually the way that’s defined now is going in and taking people’s property or with the intent to commit some other felony there. And there was a time a long time ago, when you could only be accused of burglary if it happened at night – it’s no longer part of it. Robbery is – the most common way people look at robbery is, it’s a stick-up. It may be done inside, it may be done outside but it’s gaining control of somebody’s property by the use of force or the threatened use of imminent force. One is probably – well the burglar probably hopes that he won’t find anyone at home and a robbery can’t take place without encountering somebody.

Different Degrees of Shoplifting Charges in Illinois

Interviewer: What are the different the degrees of shoplifting charges?

Fred Dry: In Illinois it’s not usually degree. It’s a question of what the penalty is. So you would refer it to as the class of felony – class 1, class 2, class 3, class 4. But in Illinois shoplifting is kind of a funny thing because usually a theft can’t become a felony unless it involves 300 dollars or more. But with shoplifting the amount is 150. And shoplifting is of course stealing from a retailer – part of the definition is that it has to be taken from a retail mercantile establishment.

Shoplifting Is Either a Crime of Necessity or Committed out of Compulsion

Interviewer: In your experience, what are some of the reasons for shoplifting? I mean is it always because someone’s just – is it like a crime of necessity; a crime of compulsion?

Fred Dry: It can be either one. It can be for a thrill. For a kid it could be going in and fooling-the-adults kind of thing. For an adult it could be necessity or it can be a sport, or it can be foolishness. I mean, you know I can’t tell you how many crimes I see, and I talk to them and basically they go, ‘I don’t know what happened that time, I just did something I shouldn’t have done’. Often times its need – you know, I need two loaves of bread but I can only pay for one so I’ll take one and pay for one.

Absent Mindedness or Distractions May Cause Accidental Cases of Shoplifting

Interviewer: So are there any cases of accidental shoplifting?

Fred Dry: Actually I had a client who went into a store, plans to buy certain things – she had the money in her pocket. And it happened that she was buying garden supplies and there was a door; you could walk directly into the garden supply area from the parking lot and obviously you could walk out through that door. And she was absent-minded and she thinking about the fact that she had to rush to pick up her child from school, and she just walked out without paying because the cash registers were down the way, and she just wasn’t thinking about it. And she got arrested for that – we ended up having the case dismissed because the prosecutor and the police officer both ultimately said, ‘We don’t think this is really a theft’, although the store person was of a different mind. You go into a store, you get distracted, you don’t think about it, you walked in the parking lot, you walked past the last place to pay – technically you’ve violated the statute. But it’s a matter of what’s in your head – did you intend to do that? Did you intend to keep the goods without paying for them? So that’s a component that you can’t really observe.

Common Methodology of Apprehending Shoplifters in Illinois

Interviewer: How do people usually get caught when shoplifting?

Fred Dry: Well they usually get caught because the stores have agents who walk around and they just watch shoppers, whoever they think they smell something going on, they just guard them. You know people put things in their bag, and their pocket, and their purse, whatever, to conceal them. And sometimes they’ll buy something just to divert the attention but if there was a store agent watching you, you know, pay for a few items and you put a few items in your pocket that you didn’t pay for – as soon as you walk past the payment point, usually they wait till you walk out of the store so as not to cause a ruckus in the store – you’ve technically committed a crime. Now if you can persuade the prosecutor, or a judge, or a jury, that you’re just absent-minded and you made a foolish mistake – you paid for some and you forgot to pay for the others – well then you’d be found not guilty. But on a scale of persuasion that’s not one of the easier ones.


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