Retail Fraud - Shoplifting

There are several crimes on the books in Michigan that cover theft and fraud related activity. Retail Fraud is the name given in the Michigan Penal Code for the crime of shoplifting and it is always one of the most common crimes on the dockets in every Macomb and Oakland County Court. Depending upon the severity of the offense, retail fraud may be charged in the first degree, second degree or third degree.

Let us help you get your life back! Being charged with retail fraud is a dreadful experience. We know that you are worried about jail, getting a criminal record and have anxiety about the court system. Get ABDO LAW on board to explain the court process and manage every aspect of your retail fraud case to get you the best result (including possible dismissal) as we have done for our clients in each of these Macomb County District Courts:

  • 37th District: Warren, Centerline
  • 38th District: Eastpointe
  • 39th District: Roseville, Fraser
  • 40th District: St. Clair Shores
  • 41-A District: Sterling Heights
  • 41-A District: Shelby Twp., Macomb Twp., Utica
  • 42-1 District: Romeo, Washington Twp, Richmond, Ray, Bruce, Armada
  • 42-2 District: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Twp., Lenox, New Haven
Retail Fraud Penalties

Retail fraud in the first degree is classified as a felony. Retail fraud in the second or third degree are classified as misdemeanors. Offenders with prior retail fraud or larceny convictions face enhanced penalties. The penalties for retail fraud are as follows:

  • Retail Fraud 1st Degree: If the value of the merchandise is $1,000.00 or more, the punishment is up to 5 years in prison and/or fine up to $10,000.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.
  • Retail Fraud 2nd Degree: If the value of the merchandise is $200 but under $1,000.00, the punishment is up to 2 years in prison and/or fine up to $2,000.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.
  • Retail Fraud 3rd Degree: If the value of the merchandise is under $200, the punishment is up to 93 years in jail and/or fine up to $500.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.

In addition to the above criminal penalties, a person convicted of retail fraud faces several other possible sanctions, including:

  • Civil liability and/or restitution to the merchant for any losses
  • MCL 600.2953 allows the merchant to send a letter and request not more than $200.00
  • Probation: up to 5 years for a felony and up to 2 years for a misdemeanor
  • Counseling, drug/alcohol testing, travel restrictions
Retail Fraud Related Activity

Retail fraud covers a variety of activity by a person, other than a store employee, who engages in activity to steal property from a merchant by:

  • Taking property from an establishment without paying for it
  • Concealing property with an intent to steal
  • Altering labels or price tags on merchandise
  • Attempting to obtain a bogus refund
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another
  • Attempting to avoid payment at self-checkout scanners
  • Working in groups to distract store employees

Leaving the retail establishment is not a requirement to prove retail fraud since the crime is complete upon taking control of the property with an intent to steal it.

A store employee that engages in theft of money or property in the course of employment is looking at embezzlement charges, not retail fraud.

Loss Prevention Personnel, Police Involvement and Evidence in Retail Fraud Cases

Our retail fraud caseload consists mostly of offenses that occur in high volume shopping areas and larger retail establishments like Meijer, Target, Kohl’s, Kroger, Walmart, Sam’s, JC Penney, Macy’s, Home Depot, Kmart and CVS. In addition, smaller boutique stores, especially those that carry popular easily concealable items (cosmetics and lingerie), are not exempt from shoplifting activity.

Retailers utilize an array of anti-theft measures to deter shoplifting including the use of loss prevention employees, security tags and video surveillance.

In the course of apprehending a suspected shoplifter, loss prevention employees may detain an individual for a reasonable duration until the police arrive for further processing. Once the police are involved, the person may be arrested and required to post bond. Alternatively, a ticket may be issued with a notification to contact the court within 10 days or on a specified date. Afterwards, loss prevention officers will be asked to cooperate with the police and the court system to prosecute the accused party.

To avoid liability, most retailers discourage apprehension of a subject that is uncooperative or combative. In addition, there is usually sufficient information to identify a subject that flees the crime scene including video surveillance, witness description, description of any vehicle and license plate.

The evidence in a retail fraud case will usually consist of video/photo data, employee and witness statements, a police report, any confession by the accused party and the report of the loss prevention employee.

Isolated Incident or Other Underlying Reasons for Retail Fraud Conduct

Knowing the facts of each case and the unique personal background of each client allows us to make appropriate recommendations and set realistic goals regarding the outcome of the case.

The majority of our clients accused of retail fraud have never been in trouble with the law and do not fit any particular profile. Our representative clients charged with the crime of retail fraud include adults, youthful offenders, juveniles and senior citizens. Our typical first offenders are usually charged with retail fraud in the third degree for a petty theft offense. I consider many of these clients ‘isolated offenders’ that acted uncharacteristically on an impulse to engage in risky behavior.

Others that we have helped may have a prior criminal record, an underlying personal problem, recent stressor (divorce, loss of a family member), suffer from an addiction, financial hardship, marital issues, psychological disorders (depression, bi-polar, PTSD) or suffer from kleptomania. Kleptomania is the recurrent inability to resist urges to steal items that you generally don't really need and that usually have little value. 

Retail Fraud and Deportation for Non-US Citizens

According to US Immigration laws, theft and fraud offenses are considered crimes of moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude, such as retail fraud, is a deportable offense and can also prevent someone from entering into the United States or block a person from obtaining a green card or visa.

If you are a Canadian or non-US citizen and have been charged with retail fraud or any other crime, you should consult with ABDO LAW immediately to discuss your options. One such option is to negotiate with the prosecutor to get a retail fraud amended to an unrelated offense that is not a crime of moral turpitude and is not deportable.

Dispositions to Get a Retail Fraud Charge Dismissed, Reduced, Amended

A retail fraud conviction can be obstacle to employment, college, various licensing, CPL rights and citizenship.

Being charged with retail fraud does not mean that you wind up in jail or with a retail fraud conviction. For more than 35 years, we have helped our clients charged with retail fraud cases in the following ways:

  • Eligible adult offenders: dismissal after a delayed sentence period
  • Youthful offenders under age 24: dismissal pursuant to HYTA
  • Felony offenders: negotiating an agreement for a misdemeanor, HYTA, or delayed sentence
  • Juvenile offenders: dismissal pursuant to consent calendar
  • Possible reduction or amendment to a non-theft or non-deportable offense

ABDO LAW provides comprehensive representation for all adults and juveniles charged with any felony or misdemeanor including retail fraud, larceny, false pretenses, embezzlement, uttering and publishing or credit card fraud.

Serving all courts in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne or St. Clair County.

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Michigan Criminal Lawyer Blog - Retail Fraud