Retail Fraud and Shoplifting
Retail fraud - or shoplifting - is sometimes accidental or merely isolated bad judgment. Usually, the embarrassment of being caught and humiliated by store security is sufficient punishment enough. Still, under Michigan law, retail fraud is a punishable offense that can lead to issues with your current and future employment. The key to minimizing the impact that a retail fraud conviction may have on your record is to hire a successful Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney who has experience working with prosecutors to help keep this type of sentence off your criminal record. If you are facing a retail fraud charge for the first time, attorney Sam Bernstein at ArborYpsi Law will fight to get this charge off your permanent record.Retail Fraud Under Michigan Law
Retail fraud occurs when a store is open and a person in the store:
- Steals an item from the store.
- Alters, conceals, removes, replaces, transfers or misrepresents the price of an item in the store with the intention to pay less than the actual price or not pay for the item at all.
- Has the intent to defraud, meaning obtain money or property as an exchange or refund for something that was not paid for or belongs to the store.
Retail theft may not be the most serious charge you can face, but you can still suffer serious consequences if convicted. Fortunately, the prosecution must prove that you actually committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You don’t have to say or do anything, but asserting a defense can help you get your charges dismissed or acquitted.
- Lack of intent. The key element in proving that you committed retail fraud is that you intended to steal the item or otherwise commit retail fraud.
- Accidental theft. People are busy and often highly distracted while they shop. You may have put something in your pocket or your purse to pick up something else and then forgot about it. Or you may have been trying on multiple items and forgotten to take one of them off. In either case, aggressive law enforcement agents may not believe that you had no intention of stealing.
- Unreliable witness testimony. Many retail fraud charges rely upon video surveillance, but some cases depend on eye-witnesses. They may have identified the wrong person or may not have actually seen what they think they saw. A skilled Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney will be able to break down the witnesses’ testimony to identify any potential issues and help you get a fair result.
The bottom line is that you have options. An experienced Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney can formulate a defense strategy based on the unique facts and circumstances of your case.Our Ann Arbor Retail Fraud Attorney Can Help You Fight Shoplifting Charges
If you’re accused of shoplifting, an Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney at our office will assess your case. Sometimes mistakes in judgment occur that can lead to false arrests. Police officers may misunderstand cultural issues or stereotype someone in a store. Whatever the issue is, the team at ArborYpsi is prepared to provide all possible defenses to the court that may lead to a dismissal or acquittal of the case.
The first step is to evaluate and understand your options. Generally speaking, you have three possible courses of action when facing a retail fraud charge:
- Fight the charges. This means pleading “not guilty” and demanding that the prosecution prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. It also gives you the opportunity to raise your own defense that it was an accident or you have been falsely accused. This could be a risky strategy if you have to proceed to trial, but it’s the only strategy that may result in an acquittal or your charges being dismissed.
- Negotiate a plea deal. Prosecutors often offer a plea agreement in order to quickly dispose of a case. However, you need to understand that the plea agreement will require you to plead guilty, even if it’s to a lesser charge. In addition, the prosecutor may be offering you a plea agreement because they’re worried they can’t prove their case. We strongly encourage you to speak with our Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney before accepting a plea deal.
- Plead guilty. This is obviously the least desirable option. Unfortunately, it is sometimes the only option. While it can save you time, money, and stress, pleading guilty does carry serious consequences. As a result, you should speak to a lawyer to make sure that you have no other alternatives and understand the implications of your plea.
An experienced Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney will be able to explain which course of action is best in your case so that you can make an informed decision.Juvenile Retail Fraud in Michigan
Some jurisdictions in Michigan have diversion programs that offer relief - or a second chance - to those facing first-time retail fraud charges. These types of programs will remove the case from the court system, providing an alternative means of dealing with these charges without the offender having a permanent criminal record for the offense. Many of these programs have eligibility requirements that vary, but some offer probation, payment of fines, restitution, classes or community service. Hiring an Ann Arbor retail fraud attorney can help juveniles avoid permanent criminal records that can hinder their chances of college admission and gaining future employment.Different Classifications of Fraud
Retail fraud in Michigan is broken down into three different classifications.
- First Degree Retail Fraud - This is a felony charge where more than $1,000 in merchandise is stolen. Defendants face up to five years in prison or fines up to three times the value of the merchandise (up to $10,000). If someone has a previous retail fraud offense and the stolen value from this offense is more than $200 or they are a repeat offender, prosecutors will seek these charges.
- Organized Retail Fraud - This is a felony charge and is relatively new in Michigan. To qualify for this charge, defendants must have shoplifted with the intent of reselling the goods. This offense is punishable of a fine up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail.
- Second Degree Retail Fraud - This is a misdemeanor charge in which the value of the merchandise is under $200. Defendants can face up to one year in jail or fines up to three times the value of the goods (up to $10,000), whichever is higher. If someone has a previous retail fraud offense and this charge involves merchandise theft of under $200, the defense will usually seek to eliminate these charges.
- Third Degree Retail Fraud - This is a misdemeanor charge, but defendants could face 93 days in jail, including a fine up to three times the merchandise, not to exceed $500.
As an experienced Ann Arbor retail fraud lawyer, Sam Bernstein at ArborYpsi Law will fight for your rights. If you have been charged with retail fraud, contact our office for a free consultation.