Understanding the Severity of Jail Time for Retail Fraud Charges: A Guide to Legal Representation and Defense Strategies

Although the direct and collateral consequences of a retail fraud or shoplifting conviction can potentially be severe, a strong defense can result in a dismissal or reduction of charges and a lenient sentence.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

Understanding the Types of Retail Fraud Charges

Retail fraud or shoplifting is broadly defined in Michigan. In addition to someone taking or attempting to take something from a store without paying, retail fraud includes price switching, hiding merchandise, returning merchandise that was not paid for, use of a fraudulent coupon or discount code, and any similar action to take retail merchandise without paying the full price. If you face allegations of retail fraud, it is essential that you understand the severity of potential jail time.

A prosecutor can increase or raise a misdemeanor charge to a felony retail fraud if the defendant has prior retail fraud (shoplifting) convictions.

The Severity of Jail Time for Misdemeanor Retail Fraud Charges

There are two types of misdemeanor retail fraud – second-degree (2nd) and third-degree (3rd). Second-Degree Retail Fraud carries a maximum of one year in jail, while third-degree has a maximum of 93 days. The greater the value of the merchandise, the greater the severity of the possible jail time for retail fraud.

The Severity of Jail Time for Felony Retail Fraud Charges

If a defendant has prior felony convictions, they will be considered a “habitual” offender. The maximum sentence increases depending on the number of previous felony convictions.

Prior Felony ConvictionsHabitual Offender CategoryMaximum Prison Sentence
1Second Habitual Offender7.5 Years
2Third Habitual Offender10 Years
3Fourth Habitual Offender15 Years

Factors That Affect the Severity of Retail Fraud Sentences

Lack of intent to steal is another defense strategy that may be used in retail fraud cases. Sometimes, the accused might not have intended to steal the merchandise. For example, a customer may be accused of retail fraud if they forget to pay for an item at the bottom of their shopping cart or if a purse or bag inadvertently covers it. If the defendant had no intent to steal, they are innocent. A criminal defense lawyer can assist their client in developing a defense strategy to demonstrate to the judge and prosecutor they had no intent to steal.

Mitigating the Charges of Retail Fraud

Retail fraud charges can result in severe penalties, including fines, restitution, and imprisonment. The severity of the punishment, including jail, may depend on the value of the stolen goods, the offender’s criminal history, and the nature of the crime.

If you have been charged with or accused of retail fraud or shoplifting, it is imperative that you retain experienced legal counsel to protect your legal rights and potentially mitigate the charges. A good retail fraud attorney can assist you in properly understanding your legal options, developing a defense strategy, and possibly having the charges dismissed or reduced. By taking the necessary measures to defend yourself against retail fraud charges, you can safeguard your future and avoid the potentially severe repercussions of this offense.

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