Detroit Retail Fraud Lawyer
Retail fraud, which is also known as shoplifting is a serious crime. If you are ever accused of stealing goods from a store or attempting to pay less than a product’s full price through deceptive means, you could end up in jail. In addition, you may be sentenced to pay fines reaching into the thousands of dollars. Your retail fraud conviction will become public information, which may interfere with your ability to obtain employment or to qualify for professional licenses. A Detroit retail fraud lawyer, like Maurice Davis, can help.
Fortunately, a skilled Detroit theft lawyer can help you avoid these harsh penalties. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be possible to have your charges dismissed or to obtain an acquittal. In any case, do not plead guilty to the offense before consulting with a knowledgeable legal professional.
What Does Michigan Law Say About Retail Fraud?
Section 750.356(c) and (d) of the Michigan Penal Code define retail fraud as doing any of the following in or in the vicinity of a store that is open to the public:
- Altering, transferring, removing, replacing, concealing or otherwise misrepresenting the price of a product with the intent of not paying for it or paying less than the listed price
- Stealing property from the store
- Attempting to return property that was not paid for with the intent of fraudulently obtaining a refund
When the value of the stolen goods or the amount defrauded from the store exceeds $1,000, retail fraud is treated as a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property–whichever is greater.
When the value of the goods stolen or defrauded is between $200 and $1,000, retail fraud is a misdemeanor involving a possible sentence of 1 year and jail and/or fines of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen goods–whichever is greater. A person who commits this offense twice will face the felony charges described above.
When the value of the goods involved in the offense is less than $200, retail fraud is a misdemeanor punishable by 93 days in jail and/or fines of up to $500 or 3 times the value of the stolen property–whichever is greater. A second conviction for this offense will result in the harsher misdemeanor penalties described above.
In determining your sentence in accordance with the Michigan criminal process, the court will calculate the value of the shoplifted property based on every alleged theft you committed over a one year period. This means that stealing small amounts of goods multiple times can result in severe criminal penalties.
Defending Your Retail Fraud Case
When you hire a Detroit criminal defense attorney to work on your case, he or she will start by reviewing the evidence against you to determine the strength of the prosecutor’s case. Retail fraud cases are usually built on video surveillance footage and the testimony of store security personnel, also known as loss prevention officers (LPOs). Some tactics for challenging this evidence might include:
- Pointing out the LPO’s lack of training or prejudice, and by extension, lack of credibility as witnesses against you
- Arguing that the LPO’s mishandled the situation, and falsely detained you in violation of your rights
- Highlighting discrepancies between the LPO’s report and the surveillance camera footage
- Arguing that the poor quality or inconclusiveness of the surveillance footage leaves some doubt as to your guilt
If challenging the prosecutor’s evidence isn’t as an option, it’s unlikely that you will be able to avoid a conviction for shoplifting. In this case, it may in your interest to admit your guilt–even if you know you are innocent. Prosecutors and judges tend to be very flexible in shoplifting cases, so working with them and making a good impression may be the path to obtaining the best outcome.
It’s helpful to show up for your trial having already apologized to the retailer, performed community service, and attended counseling if you have uncontrollable pulsions to steal. This is a common condition, and if you’ve sought treatment for it, the authorities are likely to be lenient. Basically, you can avoid the harshest penalties by making a good impression and showing that you won’t shoplift again.
By taking this approach, you may be eligible for a first offender program. This means the offense won’t appear on your record if you continue to perform community service and attend counseling. If you’re under 24-years-old, you may qualify for “youthful offender status,” which enables you to avoid a criminal record if you successfully complete probation.
Contact Davis Law Group or Help
At Davis Law Group, we are dedicated to helping our clients get the best outcomes possible when they face the criminal justice system. We are passionate advocates and deft trial strategists who will always put your interests first. If you’ve been charged with retail fraud, call us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
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