Understanding the Different Degrees of Retail Fraud: How a Defense Attorney Can Protect Your Rights
If you face retail fraud allegations, it is best that you know as much as possible about the charges, defenses, and how an experienced lawyer can protect and defend you.
Three Degrees of Retail Fraud in Michigan
There are three degrees of Retail Fraud in Michigan. Each degree represents an increased level of severity. The degree is determined by the value of the merchandise stolen and a person’s prior criminal history.
1st-Degree Retail Fraud
1st-Degree Retail Fraud is a felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, two (2) years of probation, and a $10,000 fine (or three times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money/property obtained). The prosecutor will charge 1st Degree where:
- The value of the stolen property offered for sale is $1,000 or more; or
- The value of the stolen property offered for sale is $200 or more but less than $1,000, and the defendant has a prior retail fraud conviction.
2nd-Degree Retail Fraud
2nd-Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, two (2) years of probation, and a $2,000 fine (or three times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money/ property obtained, whichever is greater). The government will charge a suspect with 2nd-Degree if:
- The value of the stolen property offered for sale is $200 or more but less than $1,000 or
- The value of the stolen property offered for sale is less than $200, and the accused has a prior retail fraud conviction.
3rd-Degree Retail Fraud
3rd-Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, two (2) years of probation, and a $500 fine (or three times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money/ property obtained, whichever is greater). Someone will face 3rd-Degree charges if the value of the stolen property offered for sale is less than $200 and the person has no prior retail fraud convictions.
How a Top Defense Lawyer Can Help Defend Someone Facing Shoplifting Charges
Many believe it is impossible to beat retail fraud charges in Michigan; they are wrong. Every case is defensible. A skilled, experienced retail fraud defense lawyer can build a strong defense against any retail fraud case regardless of the strength of the evidence. Every case is different, and the lawyer must carefully analyze the facts and the accused’s individual circumstances to determine which approach gives the client the best chance of avoiding a conviction and jail time. A solid legal, factual, or equitable defense can persuade a prosecutor to drop all charges and dismiss a case.
Wrongfully Accused of Shoplifting
If a client is wrongfully accused of retail fraud, the defense lawyer must examine the following areas of potential defense:
- insufficient evidence of intent to steal,
- lack of evidence integrity (such as poor-quality surveillance footage),
- mistaken identification,
- witness lack of credibility (a loss prevention officer with a bias or who is exaggerating),
- constitutional rights violation,
- genuine mistake, and more.
Suppose someone is guilty of taking an item offered for sale, price tag swapping, concealing retail merchandise, or something similar. In that case, building an equitable or mitigating defense is still possible. In almost every situation, a person who commits retail theft is not dishonest or immoral. After representing thousands of clients accused of similar offenses, our lawyers consistently find that the accused is a good, honorable person suffering from depression, anxiety, or extraordinary stress and act impulsively or without thinking. In these situations, we have an unparalleled track record for successfully seeking the dismissal of all degrees of retail fraud charges.
Why do judges make such a big deal about retail fraud?
Retail fraud, commonly known as shoplifting or theft, is taken seriously by the judiciary for a myriad of reasons. First and foremost, judges are entrusted with upholding the rule of law to maintain societal order. This means ensuring that laws are enforced, and transgressions are dealt with appropriately. The economic implications of retail fraud are significant. When businesses suffer financial losses due to theft, they may compensate by raising prices, impacting consumers, especially when smaller businesses struggle to absorb these costs. By adopting a stern approach to retail fraud, the legal system aims to deter would-be offenders from committing such acts. Furthermore, unchecked minor offenses might lead some individuals down a path of more severe criminal behavior.
As a reflection of societal norms, the judiciary recognizes retail fraud as a legal and moral violation, infringing on the principle of property rights. In some cases, what appears as minor theft on the surface may have links to organized crime rings. Addressing more minor cases might inadvertently unveil more extensive illicit operations. Moreover, a high incidence of retail fraud demands increased surveillance, straining law enforcement and retail security resources. Lastly, the confrontational nature of shoplifting incidents can pose safety concerns, as these situations might escalate, leading to potential harm. While the judiciary consistently underscores the gravity of retail fraud, the handling and outcomes of these offenses can differ based on jurisdiction, the specifics of the crime, and the offender’s background.
Why work with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.?
Many defense lawyers in Michigan work for various levels of legal fees. Some might believe retail fraud isn’t as severe as some other crimes, so why would anyone want to hire a top law firm, such as LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. to defend them? Anyone facing retail fraud charges should want the best defense lawyer they can get because the stakes are high. In addition to the potential direct consequences of a conviction, such as jail, probation, and fines, there are also indirect or collateral consequences to consider. Some collateral consequences of a retail fraud conviction are a criminal record that might interfere with job prospects or promotions, loss or inability to obtain a professional license, damaged reputation, reduced credit rating, inability to obtain public benefits, immigration consequences, and more. If you work with a budget lawyer or general practice attorney and things do not go well, you do not get a “second bite at the apple.” Call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. today for a free consultation. A top defense attorney will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and work with you to develop a winning strategy. Our good and affordable lawyers will do whatever it takes to help and protect you.
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.