Defenses Against Retail Fraud Charges
Every retail fraud case is defensible. Our team of criminal defense specialists can defend every retail fraud using the law, facts of the case, and equitable considerations. There is almost always a way to avoid jail and/or a conviction.
Exploring Common Defense Strategies Used by Retail Fraud Attorneys
Retail fraud is a serious crime that can lead to severe consequences, including heavy fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. Whether you’re facing charges of shoplifting, price switching, credit card fraud, or any other form of misdemeanor or felony retail fraud, it’s crucial to seek the help of a qualified retail fraud attorney who can help you build a strong defense and avoid a conviction and jail.
The following are some of the most common defense strategies retail fraud attorneys use to defend our clients against retail fraud charges. From lack of intent to mistaken identity and false accusations, we’ll discuss each defense and summarize the information you need to protect yourself.
Rember that a defense does not have to be a 100% absolute winner to be helpful. Any defense that makes a conviction more difficult for the prosecution increases the defendant’s bargaining power. Even in cases with overwhelming evidence of guilt, skilled defense attorneys, such as those with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., can often negotiate for dismissed or reduced charges and lenient sentences.
Understanding Retail Fraud Charges
Retail fraud, also known as shoplifting or retail theft, occurs when someone takes goods or merchandise from a retail establishment without paying for them. Other forms of retail fraud include price switching, coupon fraud, and return fraud.
If you’re caught shoplifting, you might face criminal charges that can have direct and indirect consequences, including fines, imprisonment, a criminal record, years of probation, immigration issues, loss of employment, inability to advance in a career, credit issues, loss of civil rights, and more. In addition, you may be required to pay restitution to the store, which can be a significant financial burden because the amount can be as high as ten times the value of the merchandise involved in the offense.
The Importance of Hiring a Retail Fraud Attorney
If you’re facing misdemeanor or felony retail fraud charges, it’s crucial to seek the help of a qualified attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and build a robust, effective defense. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling cases like yours and can provide the guidance and support you need to protect and defend your rights.
An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, evaluate the evidence, and develop a factual, legal, and equitable defense strategy tailored to your situation. They will negotiate with the prosecutor and judge on your behalf to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Common Defense Strategies Used by Retail Fraud Attorneys
When defending clients against retail fraud charges, there are several common defense strategies that retail fraud attorneys may use. Here are some of the most common legal defenses used in court:
Mistaken identity is a defense used when the defendant was mistaken for someone else by law enforcement or loss prevention. In other words, the defendant may argue that they were not the person who committed the crime and that they were mistakenly identified by witnesses or store personnel.
Advocating a mistaken identity defense can be challenging, but if the defendant can provide evidence that they were not present at the time of the crime, called an alibi, they may be able to convince the jury that they are not guilty. Also, don’t forget that the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is presumed innocent.
Sometimes, individuals may be falsely accused of retail fraud by store personnel or other customers. Retail fraud attorneys may use this defense to argue that accusations against their clients are baseless and without merit.
To prove false accusations, the defendant may need to provide evidence that the allegations were made out of spite, revenge, or malice or that there was no evidence to support the accusations in the first place. Direct or circumstantial evidence can prove a loss prevention officer’s bias or dishonesty.
Duress or Coercion
Duress or coercion occurs when an individual is forced to commit a crime against their will. If a defendant can prove that they committed retail fraud under duress or coercion, they may be able to avoid conviction. The defendant must provide evidence that they were threatened or coerced into committing the crime, such as witness testimony or physical evidence. An example of duress would be if someone stole merchandise but only did so because they were threatened with bodily harm if they refused.
Police misconduct occurs when law enforcement officers engage in unethical or illegal behavior during the investigation or arrest of an individual. If a defendant can demonstrate that the police engaged in misconduct during their case, such as falsely claiming the accused confessed, planting evidence, or hiding exculpatory evidence, they may be able to have the charges against them dismissed.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers entice or coerce an individual into committing a crime that they would not have otherwise committed. If a defendant can prove that they were entrapped by law enforcement, they may be able to have the charges against them dismissed. The defendant may need to provide evidence that the law enforcement officers actively encouraged or coerced them into committing the crime.
If the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant committed retail fraud, the defense attorney might be able to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the case. In felony retail fraud cases, the defense can argue at the preliminary examination there is not probable cause to believe the defendant committed the alleged crime. If the judge rules there is insufficient evidence, they will dismiss the charge. If the prosecutor is persuaded there is insufficient evidence, they can move for dismissal.
Mental Incompetence Can Be a Defense Against Retail Fraud Charges
If a defendant is unable to understand the nature of the charges against them or to participate in their defense due to mental incompetence, they may be able to avoid prosecution or, if incompetence is long-term, a conviction. In this case, the defense may argue that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial. If a defendant could not understand what they did or know the difference between right and wrong, they might be found legally insane.
Statute of Limitations
In some cases, the statute of limitations for retail fraud may have expired, which means that the prosecution can no longer bring charges against the defendant. If the defense can prove Michigan’s six (6) year statute of limitations has expired, they can have the charges against them thrown out.
In some cases, it might be best for the defense to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution or a sentence agreement with the judge. Plea bargaining involves the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or other favorable terms. Michigan’s statutes and court rules permit a defendant to accept responsibility in exchange for an agreement to avoid a conviction or jail.
After a certain period has passed, some retail fraud convictions may be eligible for expungement, meaning they will be removed from the defendant’s criminal record. This can be an effective strategy for reducing the long-term consequences of a retail fraud conviction.
Lack of Intent
One of the most common defenses used in retail fraud cases is lack of intent. In other words, the defendant may argue that they did not intend to steal or commit fraud but accidentally took the merchandise or made an innocent mistake.
Proving lack of intent can be challenging, as prosecutors often argue that circumstantial evidence demonstrates the defendant’s actions were intentional. However, if the defendant can provide evidence that supports their claim of lack of intent, they may be able to convince the prosecutor, judge, or jury of their innocence.
Equitable and Mitigating Defenses Against Retail Fraud Charges
In most retail fraud cases, the defendant made a mistake or acted impulsively. Often, these cases arise because a good, honest person is under extreme stress, anxiety, or depression and does something without thinking clearly. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has worked with thousands of clients in this situation, and we are adept at sharing our client’s story with the prosecutor in a compelling and mitigating way. If we help the prosecutor see that our client is an honorable person who, because of an extraordinary situation, made a terrible mistake that is unlikely to be repeated, they will likely agree to reduce or dismiss the charges. We can prove that the equities weigh in our client’s benefit by providing proof of education/employment, letters of community support, proof of volunteer or charitable activities, a psychological evaluation, proof of therapy or theft crimes education, etc. If you call us for a free consultation, we will take the time to answer your questions, address your concerns, and work with you to develop a winning strategy regardless of the facts and circumstances of your case.
The Importance of Building a Strong Defense
No matter which defense strategy you and your attorney choose, it’s crucial to build a strong defense that considers all available evidence and legal arguments. By doing so, you can increase your chances of avoiding conviction, incarceration, damaged reputation, and protecting your rights and interests.
In addition, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney throughout the legal process, providing them with all the information and support they need to build a strong case on your behalf. This may include gathering evidence, reviewing police reports and witness statements, and engaging in rehabilitative activities.
Don’t Worry. We Can and Will Help You
Facing charges of retail fraud can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. However, by working with the Retail Fraud Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., and building a strong legal and equitable defense, you can protect yourself against these charges and ensure your rights and interests are protected and defended in court.
Whether you choose to argue lack of intent, mistaken identity, false accusations, or any other defense strategy, it’s crucial to work closely with our retail fraud defense team so we can develop a strategy tailored to your specific situation. By doing so, you can increase your chances of getting the best possible outcome and protecting your future. If there is a way to get your charges dismissed, we will find it!
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.