Retail Fraud and Shoplifting FAQ

A retail fraud charge can be scary because a conviction has lifelong direct and indirect consequences. A conviction should be avoided at all costs.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Team

“What is retail fraud?”

Retail fraud, also called shoplifting, occurs when a person intentionally takes some property offered for sale in a store that was open to the public. Retail fraud and shoplifting can result in felony or misdemeanor charges depending on various factors, such as the value of the item stolen and the accused’s prior criminal record.

“Am I innocent if I never left the store with the items?”

For a retail fraud charge, the person who took the property does not have to leave the store or even attempt to leave the store. It is enough for a conviction if a defendant moved the property with the intent to steal. Any movement of the item is enough.

“What happens to my charge if I did not intend to steal merchandise offered for sale?

In many cases, the person charged with retail fraud had no intent to steal and merely made a thoughtless mistake. People under acute stress or anxiety can thoughtlessly walk past a cash register and not even be aware they had merchandise or failed to pay. It has been the experience of the defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. that most people charged with retail fraud are educated, honest people without any prior criminal history. In these cases, we have frequently discovered that our client was under tremendous stress at work or home and made a careless or impulsive mistake. If a criminal defense lawyer has an excellent reputation and substantial credibility, they may be able to convince a prosecutor to dismiss retail fraud charges under circumstances such as this.

“Can I get my retail fraud charges dismissed if I took the items by accident?

It probably does not come as a surprise that most people charged with retail fraud claim that their actions were accidental or thoughtless. Because a prosecutor cannot know what was on a person’s mind, it can be difficult to prove that they took or moved an item from a store accidentally. Intent can be proven by looking at how a person acted, what they did, and what, if anything, was said. An experienced retail fraud defense lawyer gets charges dismissed by persuading the prosecutor to see an alternative interpretation of the situation.

“What is the penalty for retail fraud?”

The possible sentence for a retail fraud conviction depends on the value of the merchandise taken and if the defendant has a prior record. If the value is under $200, the charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. If the value is between $200 and $1,000, the possible jail sentence is up to 1 year. In cases where the value is over $1,000, the charge is a felony with a maximum possible sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

A misdemeanor sentence can include up to 2 years of probation, and a felony can result in up to 5 years of probation. Fines can be as high as $10,000! If a person has prior retail fraud convictions, the penalty and seriousness of the offense can become more severe.

“What are the defenses to retail fraud charges?”

There are many defenses to retail fraud charges, such as accident, claim of right, actual innocence, mistaken identity, duress, or necessity. Because retail fraud and shoplifting are crimes, the prosecutor must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the government cannot prove the defendant intended to steal, the defendant would be found not guilty. A highly experienced and successful retail fraud and shoplifting criminal defense lawyer is in the best position to determine the appropriate defense to retail fraud charges.

“What happens to an alien, an individual that is not a U.S. citizen, such as someone on a Visa or with a Green Card if they are convicted?”

Under immigration law, a retail fraud conviction is considered a “crime of moral turpitude” and can result in deportation. This is true even if the defendant pleads guilty, and the case is taken under advisement and dismissed. Any admission in court may be considered a conviction under immigration law, even if there is no criminal conviction. Many lawyers do not understand that if a defendant pleads to a retail fraud charge and the case is taken under advisement and dismissed, there is still a conviction under immigration law.

“How much do lawyers charge to defend a retail fraud charge?”

There are lawyers who handle retail fraud and shoplifting cases in every price range. Typically, lawyers charge a fee that is commensurate with their experience, track record of success, reputation, and specialization. The principle of “you get what you pay for” applies to hiring a lawyer. The best you can do is determine your budget for hiring an attorney and then seek out the best lawyer you can find within that budget. Nearly all top retained retail fraud defense lawyers offer a free consultation, including the highly experienced and successful defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.

You never want to settle for a lawyer with a “cookie-cutter” fee that is a one-size-fits-all. Every case is different, and every client has a unique story. A good, honest lawyer will take the time to listen to your story, plan a defense, and quote a fee that is fair under the circumstances.

When considering the possible consequences of a retail fraud conviction, a fair question is, “what is the cost of not hiring the best possible retail fraud defense attorney?” If you are convicted, what impact might this have on your life? In addition to jail and probation, a conviction can result in lost employment, inability to advance in a career, suspension or loss of a professional license, and a damaged reputation. Do not trust your fate to the lowest bidder.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

“Why would I want to hire a lawyer with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. to defend me on retail fraud charges in Michigan?”

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience and an unparalleled track record of successfully defending clients charged with felony and misdemeanor retail fraud charges. We have a team of lawyers and highly experienced paralegals, investigators, and experts who collaborate to achieve extraordinary results and keep clients out of jail. Throughout Michigan, judges and prosecutors know that the attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will do whatever it takes to achieve the best possible results.

People charged with retail fraud are often misjudged and regarded as dishonest people. Most defense lawyers just assume their clients are thieves and merely work to achieve a mediocre result. The defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will never judge you, they will treat you with compassion and respect, and we will work with you to make sure your story is told in a way so that the judge and prosecutor know that you are a good person. Even the best people among us make mistakes, and no person should be judged based on one error of judgment or impulsive decision. We will do whatever it takes to protect and defend you.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

Contact Us - Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys