Retail theft can cost U.S. retailers about $10 billion a year. Because of that, stores use a variety of methods to stop you from swiping their merchandise.

Stores such as Whole Foods may use plain clothes security. You don’t realize that shopper down the aisle is really keeping an eye on your behavior. Are you watching the cashier more than you are shopping? Do you seem nervous? Are you wearing unusually warm or bulky clothes on a hot day?

Other stores, such as Macy’s, use security cameras. These cameras are not stationery. Store personnel zoom in on you if you seem suspicious, and they can pick up a surprising amount of detail.

Stores also rely on security tags to set off alarms if you leave the premises, two-way mirrors to prevent theft in the dressing room, and security alert codes to let store personnel know of a suspicious shopper.

No matter how you are caught, an arrest for retail theft can be embarrassing and scary. Illinois law takes retail theft very seriously. Stealing more than $300 in merchandise bumps you up to a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in jail. Less than $300 is still a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year for a first offense, and a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years for subsequent offenses. You can also get sued in civil court for the cost of the merchandise plus attorney fees.

If you are arrested for retail theft, call an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not attempt to explain yourself to store security or police. What you think sounds like a reasonable explanation may become a confession to the crime. Do not discuss your case with third parties, or they could be called in as witnesses against you.

An experienced criminal law attorney will review your case to determine the best strategy for your defense. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to get you a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)


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