March 2012 Archives

The 80 Hour (EtG) Alcohol Test. Reliable or Unreliable?

March 30, 2012,

etg test.jpg

What is EtG?

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is a metabolite of beverage alcohol (ethanol), which means that it is used by the body to break down alcohol in the system. According to the, the presence of EtG is a conclusive sign of recent alcohol consumption.

What is an EtG Test?

The EtG test, which can be implemented by a Court for a variety of reasons, is able to detect alcohol in a person's system when a standard breathalyzer is not sufficient. Ethyl Glucuronide is detectable for up to 80 hours after an individual stops drinking, but can vary depending upon the person's metabolism and the amount of alcohol that was consumed.

The EtG Testing Process (provided by, a testing facility)
EtG testing is a process similar to other lab-based drugs of abuse testing. The following steps are typically followed:
Step 1: A chain of custody form is completed
Step 2: The subject voids into a standard collection cup. The temperature of the urine is checked, using a temperature strip on the collection cup, to assure it is a valid sample.
Step 3: A urine specimen syringe device is used to collect a sample of the urine.
Step 4: The syringe device, and related paperwork are sent to the lab. This is easier, cleaner and less expensive than sending a bottle of urine.
Step 5: The test samples are shipped to the lab. The most economical and effective method of getting your sample to the lab will depend on your location.
Step 6: Results are typically reported within three days of receipt at the lab.

Why is the EtG test ordered?

Individuals on probation for a criminal offense are sometimes subjected to random alcohol testing, which dictates that they blow into a portable breathalyzer. This test will only show the alcohol (ethyl alcohol) which remains in the bloodstream and is expelled as vapor from the lungs. Therefore, this test will only give information on whether or not the individual has drank alcohol within hours of taking the test.

Under certain circumstances the Court will order an EtG test for someone who is prohibited by law from consuming alcohol, based on an alcohol-related offense (usually drunk driving). The test is also used to screen for drinking problems, intervention evaluation, employment purposes and to motivate changes in drinking behavior.

Is the EtG Test reliable?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the EtG test is inaccurate and may actually be unreliable. The SAMHSA discusses the test's sensitivity to even small amounts of alcohol that can be present in daily-use items. Examples include hand sanitizer, hair spray, laundry detergent, aftershave and even some cosmetic items. The information provided in the SAMHSA advisory notice led the U.S. Department of Health to deem the test "experimental". The EtG test can produce positive results when an individual is simply exposed to any number of products which contain ethanol.

Despite EtG testing's scientific unreliability, the test continues to be widely-used across the country. For this reason, our law firm is against the use of EtG tests.

Continue reading "The 80 Hour (EtG) Alcohol Test. Reliable or Unreliable?" »

Michigan Retail Fraud and Larceny Crimes Require an Intent to Steal. You Can Be Arrested For Larceny Even If You Have Not Left the Store!

March 16, 2012,

woman shoplifter.jpg

Also known as shoplifting, retail fraud consists of a person intending to permanently deprive the lawful owner of the merchandise, whether by fraud or by taking. It is a common belief that you must leave the store with the merchandise in order to be charged and convicted of retail fraud/shoplifting. In truth, a person may be charged and convicted of retail fraud without ever exiting the store. In addition, other conduct which constitutes retail fraud is as follows:

  • Price tag switching
  • Altering price tags
  • Fraudulent returns
  • Swapping goods in containers with different prices

The penalties for retail fraud in Michigan are as follows:

1st Degree - Felony
$1,000 or more stolen; or
2nd degree with prior conviction

2nd Degree - Misdemeanor
Over $200, under $1,000; or
3rd degree with prior conviction

3rd Degree - Misdemeanor

Under $200

This blog will focus on whether a person can be arrested (and convicted) of retail fraud without leaving the store and discuss some trial strategies which our defense attorneys employ when contesting a retail fraud charge.

All larceny and retail fraud crimes require an "intent to steal"

The prosecutor must be prove that a person charged with a larceny or retail fraud crime had an "intent to steal." Circumstantial evidence may be used to argue the issue of "intent" when the direct facts do not fully show a specific intent to steal. The conduct of the individual may show an intentional concealment of goods when the customer claims that the taking of goods was accidental or non-intentional. What is your opinion of the person in the picture which is inserted at the top of this blog? Intentional or non-intentional? The prosecutor would assert that this behavior is consistent with dishonesty, rather than accidental conduct.

An offender does not have to leave the retail establishment to be charged with larceny or retail fraud

As described above, the intent to steal is the most important element of a larceny crime or retail fraud (in any degree). This means is that the person intended to permanently deprive the store of the merchandise, and not that the person actually leave the store with the merchandise.

According to MCL 750.365d(1)(b), the elements of the crime (retail fraud first degree) are as follows.

1. The defendant took the property for sale at the store
2. The defendant physically moved the property, although he need not leave the store with it
3. The defendant intended to steal the property (i.e. take it permanently without the store's consent
4. The defendant's actions took place inside a store or in the immediate area while the store was open for the public
5. The value of the property was between $200 and $1,000

The law itself designates that only movement of the property, coupled with the intent to steal, is all that is necessary for an individual to be convicted of retail fraud.

Preparing for a laceny or retail fraud trial

It is the goal of a criminal defense lawyer to advocate facts which support an unintentional taking of goods (accidental or inadvertent). A criminal defense attorney will explore the details of the charge and argue evidence that does not support the element of criminal intent to steal. In some cases video surveillance will be examined and the circumstances surrounding the taking carefully analyzed. Other evidence may include recent purchases by the shopper, past receipts or distractions which existed at the time the shopper took the goods. However, the prior criminal record of a person charged with larceny may be admissible in evidence under certain circumstances by the prosecutor.

Our firm has received dismissals of larceny and retail fraud cases in virtually every Macomb County District Court. Many retail fraud cases which are handled by our firm are resolved without trial and result in dismissals as we have discussed in other blogs.

Retail Fraud - Shoplifting Cases In the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Utica and Shelby Township, Michigan

Retail Fraud and the 32-A District Court in Harper Woods

Handling Shoplifting Cases - Retail Fraud Cases in Clinton Township

Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 42-2 District Court, New Baltimore, Michigan