Articles Posted in Theft

If you are arrested for shoplifting, it is important to learn more about the criminal charges you are facing and to seek help from a Michigan retail fraud defense lawyer as soon as you can. We often assist individuals who are facing shoplifting charges, and we want to walk you through some of the most important steps to take after being arrested in Michigan.

Understand the Charges You are Facing

If you are caught shoplifting in Michigan, you will likely be facing retail fraud charges (MCL 750.356c). Depending upon the value of the item you allegedly stole or attempted to steal, you could be facing anything from a misdemeanor offense for retail fraud in the third degree to a felony offense for retail fraud in the first degree. Retail fraud in the first degree is the most serious shoplifting charge you can face, and it is a felony offense. It is charged when the value of the property in question totals $1,000 or more. Retail fraud in the second degree is a misdemeanor offense that is charged when the value of the property shoplifted is between $200 and $999. Finally, retail fraud in the third degree is the least serious of the shoplifting charges in Michigan, and it is a misdemeanor offense that is charged when someone steals property valued at under $200.

Interviewer: Do you think that there is some sort of empathy or some sort of understanding when it comes to a judge and perhaps a jury when it comes to someone’s reasoning behind stealing or are they always demonized?

Paul Tafelski: Generally, there is no understanding and there is no empathy and that they will simply look at you like a bad person and a thief. Most judges are smart people who will somewhat listen to what is presented to them if it’s done in a way that is more than just talk. That’s what we try to do in defending the client is cross over that barrier so that the judge or a jury understands exactly what really is going on here and how it can be fixed.  You can educate them and convince them of what’s going on. But they’re going to start it off with the opinion that you are a bad person and need punishment. That’s where defending yourself comes into play.

It is Not Advisable To Plead Guilty and Expect Mercy From The Court

Interviewer: Is there ever a look back period where the new theft charge is treated like a first one again?

Paul Tafelski: Typically it just depends upon the crime.  For being habitualized, if you have a gap of 10 years with no priors, then they won’t count an offense as a second offense or more.  Otherwise, it’s kind of up to the prosecutor how to charge that crime as to whether or not to consider the priors to enhance the seriousness of the offense or no. But usually, unless you get an expungement of your record so that the prior conviction is obliterated, the court will become aware of any type of prior offense that you have when deciding how to sentence you.  Whether it will be a prior theft conviction (which is going to be worse) or just some other type of conviction involving things such as alcohol or drugs, or assault and battery – those kinds of things on your record would still be used against you, to some extent.

A Prior Theft Charge Can Potentially Aggravate the Situation in a Theft Case

Interviewer: What’s going to happen to someone’s life; what can a theft charge prevent someone from doing?

Paul Tafelski: One of the most important things that people have to remember with these criminal convictions is that whether they’re misdemeanors or felonies, they go into the computer and circulate around the world and follow you more than they ever did in the past. Any kind of conviction is something to think about and what I’ve seen is that theft convictions are often more troublesome for people than convictions for things such as drunk driving.  The reason is that when people go to apply for jobs and the employer does the background check and sees the conviction for a theft crime, they’re more likely to pass you over because they have to be concerned whether or not they can trust you.

A Defense Attorney Tries their Best to Prevent Clients from Getting Convicted on a Theft Charge

Interviewer: How long would shoplifting-related cases typically take or how long could they potentially take?

Paul Tafelski: That all depends on whether or not there is some angle for us to fight the case.  If there is, then we have to go to trial and that takes longer but if it’s a situation where we’re trying to do damage control, those cases can start and finish within six weeks or so. Sometimes, we want to slow it down because we want the opportunity to demonstrate something to the court in order to prove that our client is a positive person and a good person in the society, so sometimes we slow them down on purpose to prove our case.

Common Client Concerns When Retaining An Attorney to Handle a Theft Charge

Interviewer: What’s the difference between robbery vs. burglary?

Paul Tafelski: The difference is robbery involves an element of force and an element of threat; whereas burglary can be more- sneaking around and doing stuff “in the dark” so to speak.

The Penalties for Robbery are Harsher as It Involves an Element of Violence or Threatened Violence

Interviewer: When it comes to theft in general, what are some of the top misconceptions people have that you had to deal with?

Paul Tafelski: The biggest misconception is that the person accused of theft always steals and that he may always lie, and gets painted with a broad brush. Many times, these are just isolated incidents where things happen out of character, in particular when related to a stressful event or use of alcohol or drugs. They do stuff that’s really not who they are. So one of the biggest challenges is to present people in a positive light and overcome the stereotypes that are attached to people accused of theft crimes. Many times, for example, with shoplifting, you have some young clients who are with their friends and get caught up in peer pressure or just doing something adventurous.

Younger Individuals May Shoplift Due to Either Peer Pressure or Misguided Adventurism

Interviewer: When they refer to theft of lost property, lost property, what do they mean first of all by that just to analyze the words because some of it doesn’t make sense to me?

Paul Tafelski: That gets a lot more tricky but, for example, it might be a situation where somebody lost their wallet and it has all their identification in it. It’s easy for whoever picks it up to see whose wallet it is, who it belongs to and everything else.  Then, if you took all the money or used the credit card, you still would be stealing even though you may have found it on the ground. On the other hand, if something is truly lost like if a gold coin is just sitting on the ground and you find it and it doesn’t have any identifying marks as to who the owner is or anything that’s not going to be considered a theft crime. You happened to have found the lost property and there’s no crime in taking that.  So, it all depends on the factual circumstances.

It is Important to Avoid Purchasing Suspicious Items at Flea Markets or Pawn Shops

A new law designed to crack down on organized retail crime in Michigan has taken effect.

The measure makes it a felony to wrongfully take retail merchandise with the intent to resell, distribute or transfer it to another retailer or seller. Penalties include up to five years in prison.image

The bill also covers use of the mail or any electronic medium such as the Internet in such an enterprise.

Auto thefts have steadily declined in Michigan over the past 30 years – including a nearly seven percent drop from 2010 to 2011, the most recent reporting period.image

And state officials are giving much of the credit to the Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA), which was formed in 1986.

ATPA was created in 1986, at a time when Michigan had the highest stolen car rate in the country. The program was funded by an annual $1 assessment on each insured noncommercial passenger vehicle in the state. The money goes to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, and nonprofit community organizations.

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