Thinking about misdemeanor shoplifting? Think again. Michigan law imposes serious penalties for committing retail fraud, which is more commonly known as shoplifting in Michigan. There are three different degrees of retail fraud. The value of the property being taken is the critical factor.
A person is guilty of first degree retail fraud , which is a felony, if they attempt or successfully alter, transfer, remove, conceal, or misrepresent the price of an item with the intent to not pay for the item or pay a lesser amount if the difference is $1,000.00 or more. Simply stealing an item worth $1,000.00 or more will also result in a first degree retail fraud charge. A person can also be charged with first degree retail fraud for attempting to return or exchange an item worth $1,000.00 or more that was not paid for and belongs to the store. A conviction could mean up to five years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines or both. Michigan also permits prosecutors to enhance a conviction to a first degree retail fraud if it is not a person's first offense of retail fraud.
The difference between second and third degree retail fraud from the more serious first degree charge is the amount. For second degree retail fraud, the price of the item or difference in amount of the item and the altered amount must be between $200.00 or more but less than $1,000.00. Second degree retail fraud is punishable by jail time of one year, a fine of up to $2,000.00 or both.
Third degree retail fraud involves any act that would fall under first or second degree retail fraud with the exception that the item's price is less than $200.00 or the difference between the item's actual amount and the altered amount is less than $200.00. However, just like second degree retail fraud, a conviction in the third degree is still a misdemeanor punishment by up to 93 days in prison, a fine of up to $500.00 or both.
As you can see from the punishment Michigan imposes on those that shoplift, it is not a crime that is taken lightly. Even stealing something worth as little as $10.00 can result in significant jail time and hundreds of dollars in fines. You may also be banned from shopping in the same store, or even the same community, ever again. You may think that getting caught stealing a small item is not a big deal, but the consequences are serious.
Contacting an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney should be your first step if you have been charged with retail fraud.