Felony Theft: House Bill 337 Calls for Lighter Punishment
Prison crowding is a problem in virtually every state, including Illinois. The cost of incarceration is incredibly high, and some believe that certain crimes are too harshly punished in the state of Illinois. One of those laws may be changed in the near future, as House Bill 337 proposes to change felony theft from stealing over $500 in property to over $2,000, according to Fox Illinois News.
Currently, according to Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/16-1, stealing up to $500 in property, and not directly from a person, which is robbery, is a Class A misdemeanor. Stealing over $500 is a Class 4 felony, however. A Class 4 felony is punishable by one to three years in prison, while a misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and is a much lesser offense.
By increasing the felony threshold to $2,000, it “would put Illinois in line with many of the states around the Midwest and also states around the country,” according to proponent of the bill, Representative Elgie R Sims Jr. “Our state's criminal justice system does not recognize individuals who are a threat to public safety. “It incarcerates and incapacitates individuals because they have committed a crime—often times crimes of poverty.”
What is the Counter Argument to the Bill?
Some have the opinion that retailers will be hurt as more people will be enticed to get away with shoplifting, while others believe that the current law too harshly attacks people living in poverty, contributes to prison overcrowding, and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The total cost of Illinois prison system is $1.4 billion annually, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. It costs the state of Illinois an astonishing $38,268 per inmate. Stealing from retail stores, however, is not a victimless crime, according to opponents of the bill.
Lawmakers, business owners, and the public all have their own opinions regarding how much money is lost by business owners due to theft versus how much it costs the state to imprison small time theft offenders. The nation as a whole loses around $32 billion annually due to theft, or 1.4 percent of total sales in 2014. One third of that theft is made up of shoplifters and one third is from store employees, according to Fortune.
Contact a Naperville, Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Today
While changes to the system may be in the works, the current law stands. If you have been charged with stealing over $500, you are facing a felony that could haunt you for the rest of your life. Contact the passionate Naperville criminal defense attorneys of Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today for experienced legal defense.