What is Retail Fraud?
“Retail Fraud” is the legal name for shoplifting in Michigan. Basically, retail fraud is divided into three degrees or levels of seriousness. The least serious retail fraud charge is a misdemeanor, and the most serious is a felony. To our clients, any retail fraud is serious and can potentially life-altering consequences to their freedom, finances, livelihood, reputation, and more.
While there are cases where someone intentionally steals from a store, the real story is often complex and overlooked. The most common shoplifting defendant is someone who did not need to steal anything, and the displacement of the item was inadvertent, accidental, or impulsive. In these cases, it is common to find that the person charged was under great stress or had a recent, pressure-filled life-event. A good person’s entire character should not be defined by one lapse in judgment.
There are Three Degrees of Retail Fraud in Michigan
- Fraud First Degree – a Felony. Maximum of 5 years in Prison and Up to 5 Years of Probation
- Second Degree – a Misdemeanor. Maximum of 1 year in Jail and Up to 2 Years of Probation
- Third Degree – a Misdemeanor. Maximum of 93 days in Jail and Up to 2 Years of Probation
Retail Fraud in the First Degree
A felony is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. The law states that it is a felony to conceal property that is offered for sale or to misrepresent the price at which property is offered for sale if the value of the property or the resulting difference in the price is greater than $1,000.00.
The store must be open to the public at the time of the concealment or change in price. The defendant must have the intent to defraud.
Retail Fraud in the Second Degree
A misdemeanor that carries a maximum possible sentence of one year in jail has the same elements as Retail Fraud in the First Degree, but the value for that offense is set at between $200 and $1,000.
Third Degree Retail Fraud
The third degree of the offense has a maximum possible sentence of 93 days and applies to offenses with property valued at under $200. Many defendants who are wrongfully charged because they made a simple error, because of an oversight, or because of an impulsive mistake are wrongfully charged in court. Retail Fraud 3rd Degree is a common charge under these circumstances.
Prior Convictions for Retail Fraud
In situations where a defendant has prior convictions for retail fraud, a new offense can be enhanced to one of the more serious degrees even if the value is less than the amount identified for, the higher degree offense. If a defendant has 3 prior felony convictions, the maximum possible sentence can be up to life in prison.
Trends in Retail Fraud Prosecutions and Collateral Consequences
In Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee, Lenawee, Livingston Counties, and throughout Michigan, police and prosecutors are on a mission to forcefully prosecute retail fraud cases. Many people are under the misapprehension that if the value of the property is very low, and they are willing to pay back the value of the property, they will not be prosecuted. Big mistake! Prosecutions equate to money for the courts, the police, and the prosecutors, and they are not letting cases go without convictions if they can get them because the government is in need of the revenue.
Another common misconception is that because Second and Third Degree Retail Fraud are misdemeanors that they can be taken lightly. Again, that is a huge mistake. Retail Fraud cases are unique because they distinctly contain elements of dishonesty. A retail fraud conviction can have a serious impact on employability, reputation, child custody, credibility, immigration, liberty (freedom), and more.
Retail Fraud / Shoplifting and Immigration Penalties
Under immigration law, a retail fraud conviction is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can result in deportation to an alien living legally in the United States. A lawful visa holder, permanent resident, or a green card holder can face immigration consequences even after living many years in the United States without any trouble or legal problems. Additionally, an alien who voluntarily leaves the United States following a shoplifting conviction, for a vacation as an example, may not be permitted to reenter the country.
Retail Fraud Defense Attorney
The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. as decades of experience successfully defending retail fraud felony and misdemeanor charges, and would be willing to consult with anyone charged in Michigan with that offense or any other criminal charge. Call for a free consultation at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form, and a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer will promptly contact you.