Evidentiary and Other Issues in the Criminal Defense of Lake County Retail Theft Charges

Most retail theft prosecutions are built on the statements of lay witnesses. Often, these witnesses are loss prevention personnel, who allegedly observed the acts in question while working in a store.

Some cases are based on actions these personnel allegedly observed directly. Many others are based on actions loss prevention workers allegedly observed through the assistance of store surveillance cameras.

In store surveillance camera retail theft cases, most of the time video images have been recorded and maintained, first by loss prevention and then, ultimately, by the police.

Just as are police reports, written witness narratives and statements, so, too, video recordings are subject to the discovery process in court.

If you are charged with retail theft, you have the right to see and review the prosecution's evidence. Such evidence often includes video surveillance footage.

As a general rule, the police are not allowed to testify to what a person other than the defendant told them about how a crime occurred.

As a result, even though in most retail theft cases the police responded to the scene of the alleged crime, gathered evidence, and made an arrest, the witness or witnesses who allegedly observed the theft will be required to appear in court and testify at trial.

Still, even though they may have spent time and effort investigating a case, possibly even in apprehending and detaining you, some lay witnesses and loss prevention personnel do not bother to appear in court.

If a necessary prosecution witness case chooses not to appear for your trial, oftentimes your attorney is able to request and achieve a dismissal of your case.

In most retail theft cases, in order to prove the charge, the prosecution must prove that you had the specific intent of depriving the merchant of the full value of the merchandise.

In your retail theft case, the prosecution must prove that you engaged in your predicate conduct at least knowingly.

As a result, if the evidence adduced at trial shows merely that you removed merchandise from a store without paying for it, but did not do so knowingly or did so accidentally, then you should be found not-guilty and acquitted of the charge.

The HoffmanLaw Office has a lengthy record of success in defending clients in Lake County retail theft cases and in achieving exceptional results.

~Attorney Matt Hoffman, lead lawyer of the HoffmanLaw Office

There are some scenarios where the charge of retail theft can be especially severe.

Misdemeanor charges of retail theft, alleging thefts valued at $300 or less, may allow for dispositions of court supervision as one way to avoid a conviction for the offense.

Felony charges of retail theft do not permit court supervision to be imposed and carry mandatory convictions as a result.

For a review of the specific penalties for misdemeanor and felony retail theft charges, see the "Confronting the Potential Penalties" section above.

A new type of disposition called "second chance probation," which does not lead to a felony conviction, may be available if you are found guilty of a class 3 felony retail theft offense. See, 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.4. The "second chance probation" law became effective on January 1, 2014.

In a felony retail theft "enhanced" case, theoretically you could be accused of stealing a $10 item, but find yourself charged with a class 4 felony offense.

This is because at some prior time you were convicted of a theft-related offense. Even if that prior conviction was for a misdemeanor, your new $10 retail theft allegation can be charged as a class 4 felony case.

After a retail theft case has been charged, prosecutors have discretion in how they seek to resolve the allegations.

For instance, even though you might be charged with class 3 felony retail theft, alleging the value of the merchandise stolen was in excess of $300, that does not mean the prosecution must automatically seek a class 3 felony conviction.

Taking into consideration the facts of your case and your prior record, as well as arguments in your favor made by your criminal defense lawyer, sometimes your lawyer can convince prosecutors to exercise their discretion and to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor, or a misdemeanor charge to a less serious crime.

Such reductions do occur in the nature of "plea-bargaining" when "plea-bargaining" is appropriate in a case.

The HoffmanLaw Office has more than two decades of experience with Lake County retail theft charges.

We have specific experience with retail theft allegations charged in violation of local ordinances, as well as with misdemeanor and felony retail theft charges brought under Illinois state law.

The HoffmanLaw Office has a lengthy record of success in defending clients in Lake County retail theft cases and in achieving exceptional results.