Understanding Michigan’s Retail Fraud Laws: Degrees, Penalties, and Defenses
If you are accused of shoplifting or retail fraud, it is essential that you understand Michigan’s laws. We can help you understand the degrees, penalties, and defenses.
Michigan Retail Fraud Laws
Michigan’s retail fraud laws are designed to protect retailers from fraudulent activities and ensure that customers are held accountable for retail theft. People are often overcharged or wrongfully charged with shoplifting. For example, someone might have incorrectly believed an item was scanned at a self-checkout, or a person might leave a store with an unpurchased item because of stress, anxiety, or distraction. Although every case is different, retail fraud charges often result because of a misunderstanding, accident, mistake, misidentification, impulsivity, or thoughtlessness.
Whether a felony or misdemeanor, Retail Fraud is a serious offense potentially resulting in significant penalties, including fines, imprisonment, loss of civil rights, and a criminal record. This article will provide an overview of Michigan’s retail fraud laws, including the different degrees of retail fraud, potential penalties associated with each degree, and available defenses to shoplifting charges.
Definition of Retail Fraud
Retail fraud, also known as shoplifting or retail theft, is defined as (1) stealing or attempting to steal merchandise offered for sale, (2) altering, transferring, removing and replacing, concealing, or otherwise misrepresenting the price of property offered for sale, with the intent not to pay for property or to pay less for property offered for sale, or (3) with the intent to defraud, obtaining or attempting to obtain money or property from a store as a refund or exchange for unpurchased property.
Different Degrees of Retail Fraud
Michigan’s retail fraud laws are divided into three degrees, each with different penalties. Each of the degrees of retail fraud (otherwise called shoplifting) varies depending on the value of the merchandise and/or the accused’s prior criminal record. Read more about the different degrees of retail fraud in Michigan.
Potential Penalties Associated with Retail Fraud
Direct penalties for retail fraud include jail, probation, and fines/costs. Misdemeanor retail fraud is punishable by a maximum of 93 days or one year in jail, up to two (2) years of probation, and fines up to $2,000.00. Felony retail fraud, without prior felony convictions, is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine. With prior felony convictions, the penalty can increase to a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Probation conditions can include any of the following:
- weekly, monthly, or email reporting,
- drug and alcohol testing,
- mandatory school or work,
- retail theft education classes,
- civil rights restrictions,
- no-contact with retail establishments,
- community service, and more.
In addition to the potential fines and imprisonment associated with each degree of retail fraud under Michigan law, there are other penalties that a person convicted of retail fraud may face. These penalties can include the following:
- Restitution: A court may order a person convicted of retail fraud to pay restitution to the retailer for as much as three times the value of the merchandise.
- Community Service: A court may order a person convicted of retail fraud to perform community service as a form of punishment.
- Civil Lawsuits: Retailers may also file civil lawsuits against individuals who commit retail fraud, seeking damages for the stolen merchandise and any other losses resulting from the offense.
- Employment Issues: Someone convicted of retail fraud might have difficulty advancing in their career, obtaining employment, or keeping a job.
- Immigration Consequences: A retail fraud offense is considered a Crime of Moral Turpitude (CMT) under immigration law and can trigger immigration issues, such as deportation or inadmissibility.
- Damaged Reputation: A criminal conviction involving dishonesty can tarnish a person’s reputation and can cause lifelong complications.
Defenses Against Retail Fraud Charges
If you are facing retail fraud charges in Michigan, vital that you understand that there are defenses under Michigan’s retail fraud laws that may be available to you. Some of the most common defenses against retail fraud charges include:
Lack of Intent: As previously mentioned, intent is a crucial element of retail fraud. If you did not intend to commit fraud when you took the merchandise, you may be able to argue that you are not guilty of retail fraud.
Mistaken Identity: If you were falsely accused of retail fraud, you might be able to argue that you were mistaken for someone else who committed the offense.
False Accusations: Sometimes, retailers may falsely accuse individuals of retail fraud. If you believe that you have been falsely accused, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Equitable or Mitigation Defense: Occasionally, people under extreme stress, anxiety, or depression thoughtlessly or impulsively commit retail theft. Such a person is not dishonest or immoral, they are reacting to an extraordinary emotional situation or difficulty. Top defense lawyers, like those with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. persuade prosecutors to negotiate for reduced or dismissed charges based on equitable or mitigating factors.
What to Do If You Are Facing Charges
If you are facing retail fraud charges in Michigan, it is crucial to take them seriously, understand Michigan’s retail fraud laws, and seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand the charges against you, your legal options, and the potential consequences of a conviction.
Your attorney can also help you build a strong defense against the charges, including challenging the evidence against you, negotiating a plea deal with the prosecution, or taking your case to trial. The best approach will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, your criminal history, and other factors.
Seek Out an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Retail fraud is a serious criminal offense in Michigan, with potentially severe penalties for those convicted of the crime. The penalties for retail fraud can range from fines and restitution to jail time and a criminal record that can impact your future opportunities. Our highly experienced retail fraud defense lawyers can help you understand the law, degrees, penalties, and defenses. Call us for a free consultation. We will answer your questions, address your concerns, and work with you to develop a winning strategy.
If you are facing retail fraud charges in Michigan, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you fight the charges and protect your rights. With proper legal representation, you can build a strong defense and work toward the best possible outcome for your case.
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.