Can a Store Merchant Detain me for Suspected Retail Theft in Illinois?

 Posted on June 10, 2021 in Criminal Defense

Criminal Defense attorney DuPage CountyIn the state of Illinois, retail theft is committed when an individual knowingly takes an item from a retail establishment without proper payment or authorization. While there are many different types of retail theft, shoplifting is arguably the most common. In any scenario involving retail theft, the evidence surrounding the case could be your best defense. If you have been detained by a store employee who has accused you of retail theft, it is imperative to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Merchant Detention

According to section 720 ILCS 5/16-26, any merchant with a reasonable belief that an individual has committed retail theft may apprehend the suspected person. The detention may take place on or off the property of the retail establishment and must be in a reasonable manner and length of time. It is important to note that detention may only take place off of the retail establishment if there is an immediate pursuit of the suspected individual. A merchant may detain a suspected shoplifter for the following reasons:

  • To request and verify identification

  • To question as to whether or not the individual does have unpurchased merchandise in their possession and to establish ownership of the item(s)

  • To inform a peace officer of the detention and to surrender that person to the custody of the officer

  • If an individual has a theft detection shielding device or a theft detection device remover in their possession


In the event that the accused individual is a minor, the merchant should make a reasonable attempt to inform the parents, guardian, or whoever is interested in the welfare of the minor immediately. A peace officer may also be contacted at the merchant’s discretion. Section 720 ILCS 5/16-26 refers to a “minor” as an individual who is less than 19 years of age, is unemancipated, and resides with either his or her parent or legal guardian.


It is important to understand that detention permitted in section 720 ILCS 5/16-26 does not constitute an arrest or unlawful restraint. In addition, the merchant will not be liable to the individual who is detained.

Contact a Skilled Naperville, IL Retail Theft Defense Attorney

For individuals who have been charged with retail theft, it is important to work with an attorney who cares about your best interests. At J. Aldrich Law, P.C., we are knowledgeable in all types of retail charges and we know what it takes to build a strong defense. Contact our experienced DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at 630-953-3000 to schedule a free consultation. 




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