Written by attorney Daniel P. Hilf

Retail Fraud in Michigan

Retail Fraud (also known as shoplifting) can have serious implications on an individual's reputation, employment or career, ability to get school loans or attend school, and immigration status (for persons that are not citizens). There is the potential for incarceration, probation with conditions, community service, drug testing, economic crimes classes, counseling, fines, cost, and restitution for an individual who is convicted of retail fraud.

Retail Fraud always involves an allegation of a theft from a store which is open to the public for business at the time of the offense. It can occur by either physically moving or concealing merchandise with the intent to steal, or altering or removing a price tag with the intent to defraud. Retail fraud can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending upon the circumstances:

First Degree Retail Fraud is a felony offense that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. A charge of First Degree Retail Fraud is usually the result of the alleged theft being over $1,000, or if the person has a prior theft related conviction and the amount in controversy is over $200 for the instant offense.

Second Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to 1 year in jail plus fines and costs. A charge of Second Degree Retail Fraud is usually the result of an alleged theft being between $200 and $1000, or if the theft is under $200 and the person has a prior theft related conviction.

Third Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable up to 93 days in jail plus fines and costs. This offense occurs when the theft or attempted theft from the store involves merchandise under $200.

Retail Fraud can also be charged under city or local ordinance as a 93 day misdemeanor.

For felony cases, the Defendant is entitled to a preliminary examination to challenge whether or not there is probable cause to substantiate the accusation and the Defendant's involvement. If a probable cause determination is made, the Defendant is entitled to a jury trial. The jury would consist of 12 members of the community, and would take place at Circuit Court in which the Prosecutor would have the sole burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

For misdemeanor cases, the Defendant is entitled to a trial before a judge or jury of 6 persons from the community. The Prosecutor or City Attorney would have the sole burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If such an allegation is made against you it is recommended that you first exercise your right to remain silent and second hire a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest for the following reasons:

  1. You have a better chance of receiving a reasonable bail or bond through effective legal representation; 2. The lawyer can prepare the case for preliminary examination to work for possible dismissal, lay the groundwork for possible motions, develop testimony to impeach witnesses, and develop defenses for trial. 3. If you want to fight the case at trial, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to prepare and conduct the trial to give you the best chance of winning. 4. If you plan to plead guilty, the Defense lawyer can work to achieve the best result through possible plea bargains, possible Cobbs agreements, persuasive lawyering, proper scoring of the Michigan Sentence Guidelines (when applicable), successful arguments concerning possible sentencing options to avoid a public conviction such as HYTA - Holmes Youthful Trainee Act and Diversion Programs, and having someone working on your behalf to try and help you avoid incarceration. Every case is different, and whether or not the factors in this paragraph apply depends upon your history, the facts of the allegation, the Prosecutor's office, and the Judge assigned to the case. Sometimes in life you only have 1 opportunity to receive the right result. Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able - just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.

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