Retail fraud – often called “shoplifting” – is a serious crime in Michigan that can result in lengthy jail time, a large fine, a criminal record and restitution to the retail store. The consequences of a conviction for retail fraud can impact the rest of your life, meaning that a charge of retail fraud should not be taken lightly.Types of Retail Fraud in Michigan
Behaviors that may constitute retail fraud in Michigan include:
- Stealing property from a store when it is open to the public (shoplifting).
- Altering, transferring, concealing, removing or misrepresenting the price that an item is offered for with the intent to pay less than what the item is being sold for. This could include changing the price tag on a product to a lower price or moving an item to a clearance or sale bin with the intent to pay less than the product is listed for.
- Obtaining or attempting to obtain a monetary refund for property that belongs to the store and that was not paid for. This could include situations where someone goes into a store, takes an item off of the shelf and tries to return it, or situations where someone steals an item and tries to return it for cash.
Michigan has three different categories of retail fraud crimes based on the value of the asset involved:
- First-degree retail fraud involves stealing or defrauding a store of money or items valued at $1,000 or more.
- Second-degree retail fraud involves stealing or defrauding a store of money or items valued between $200 and $1,000.
- Third-degree retail fraud involves stealing or defrauding a store of money or items valued at less than $200
You may face harsher penalties and charges if you have prior convictions for retail fraud. For example, stealing items between $200 and $1,000 could result in a charge of first-degree retail fraud if you already have a past conviction. Likewise, stealing an item valued at less than $200 could result in a second-degree retail fraud conviction if you are a repeat offender.Penalties for First-, Second- and Third-Degree Retail Fraud
The penalties become progressively harsher with the escalating degrees of retail fraud under Michigan law. For example:
- A conviction for first-degree retail fraud is a felony. You could face prison time of up to five years and a potential fine equal to the greater of $10,000 or three times the value of the property you stole or money you tried to deprive the retail store of receiving.
- A conviction for second-degree retail fraud is a misdemeanor. You could face as long as one year in jail and a fine equal to the greater of $2,000 or three times the value of the property, money or assets you stole.
- A conviction for third-degree retail fraud is a misdemeanor. You could be sent to jail for as long as 93 days and be required to pay a fine equal to the greater of $500 or three times the value of the property or assets that you stole.
First-time offenders facing misdemeanor retail fraud charges may be able to avoid jail time and instead be sentenced to community service and probation. Diversion programs may also be available to allow defendants to avoid convictions that could remain on their criminal records for life.
To minimize the penalties or avoid the most serious consequences of a retail fraud conviction, it is important to be represented by an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer.
An attorney can explain all of your options regarding available defenses, as well as plea bargain opportunities and diversion programs that might be an option. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after being accused of retail fraud or shoplifting so you can make informed choices throughout your entire experience within the criminal justice system.