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Macomb County Retail Fraud Update

November 28, 2014,

This is an updated article in our series about retail fraud cases which are handled extensively by our criminal defense lawyers in Macomb County. We have posted several other articles relating to retail fraud that are referenced at the end of this article.

Places/courts where retail fraud cases are prevalent

Retail fraud cases seem to be on the rise in every court where we appear. Retail fraud cases are always one of the most frequently charged misdemeanor offenses in the Macomb County District Courts. While every court in Macomb and Oakland County sees its fair share of retail fraud cases, the courts which are located in jurisdictions with shopping malls, mega strip centers and major shopping corridors have the greatest number of retail fraud cases on their dockets. A list of the courts that would fall in this category are as follows:

Retail fraud penalties: Prior record of offender may increase penalty

Retail fraud crimes can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor and are classified by the value of the property taken or whether the offender has a prior record. A prior record for larceny, false pretenses or a prior retail fraud may result in enhanced penalties.

Retail fraud usually involves the act of taking property from a retail establishment without paying for it. It may also involve attempting the change price tags or paying less than the actual price by some act to defraud the establishment. The degrees and penalties for retail fraud are as follows:

Retail fraud 1st Degree, felony: Value of property stolen: $1,000.00 or more
Maximum penalty: 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price or property stolen, whichever is greater.

Retail fraud 2nd Degree, misdemeanor: Value of property stolen: $200.00 to $999.99
Maximum penalty: 1 year in jail and/or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price or property stolen, whichever is greater.

Retail fraud 3rd degree, misdemeanor: Value of property stolen: less than $200.00
Maximum penalty: 93 days in jail and/or a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price or property stolen, whichever is greater.

Some reasons that someone commits shoplifting or retail fraud

There are some reoccurring reasons as to "why" a person commits a retail fraud offense. Our clients are usually the kind of people that have never been in trouble and are faced with personal difficulties. However, shoplifting is not limited to those that are downtrodden and underprivileged. Some of our clients are well off or suffer from a compulsive shoplifting disorder. It is our job to work with our clients to understand why he or she engaged in risky behavior so that we can provide effective legal representation and solutions.

Financial distress: The number 1 reason that is given for committing retail fraud is because of family financial turmoil. In cases such as this, we find our clients taking things to maintain the household such as food, household goods and children's clothing. I attribute this to the meltdown of the economy which hit middle class families the hardest.

Impulsive behavior: Impulsive conduct, or acting before you think, is also high on the list of reasons that a person engages in the offense of retail fraud. Impulsive conduct is almost always tied to some other life problem or stressor which we try to identify. Impulsive behavior is more common with youthful offenders. However, impulsive behavior is also present when someone has a psychological disorder such as ADHD, anxiety disorder or recent stressful event such as a death, retirement or marital problems.

Prescription medications and drug addiction
: Prescription medications for psychological disorders can sometimes cause irrational behavior which leads to a person to commit retail fraud. In these cases, we recommend that our client get a current medical examination and consider engaging the services of a counselor. Drug addicts may commit retail fraud because of financial reasons or to resell goods to fund a drug habit. Again, getting as much background as possible and taking proactive measures before court can make a vast difference in the outcome of a case.

What to expect in the Macomb County District Courts

The outcome of a retail fraud case in the Macomb County Districts Courts will depend upon various factors including:

  • The prior criminal record of the offender.
  • The value of the property stolen can make a minor retail fraud offense into a felony.
  • The proactive measures taken by the offender prior to the first court date.
In a recent Wall Street Journal Article regarding misdemeanor offenses, Judge Thomas Boyd, who handles misdemeanor cases in Ingham County, Michigan, said "he sometimes finds himself arguing with defendants who seem too eager to admit wrongdoing without consulting a lawyer."

While retail fraud cases do not usually involve jail, they can be devastating on a person's permanent criminal record. A retail fraud offense can label an individual as a "thief" or "dishonest" person.

When a client has never been convicted of a crime, we may be able to advocate for a plea bargain to obtain a first offender program (such as HYTA) or petition for a delayed sentence which can result in dismissal of the offense. When someone is charged with felony retail fraud in the first degree, our goal may be to seek a reduction of the felony to a misdemeanor and avoid jail. Our experience has been that most retail fraud cases are resolved favorably by knowing our courts, knowing our clients and taking action prior to the first court date to address underlying problems associated with risky behavior.

Retail Fraud Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township
Handling Shoplifting Cases in Clinton Township
Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Cases in Macomb County District Courts

Possible Felony Prosecution for Retail Fraud/Shoplifting Offenses Pursuant to Michigan's New Organized Retail Crime Statute Effective March 31, 2013

April 1, 2013,


The crime of retail fraud or shoplifting is ordinarily charged not greater than a misdemeanor unless the value of the property involved is $1,000.00 or more.

Effective March 31, 2013, Michigan passed a law that will arm retail establishments and prosecutors with the ability to charge shoplifters with a felony regardless of the value of the property involved. The new law makes it a crime to engage in certain listed conduct which is now called Organized Retail Crime. Therefore, even if a person takes a pack of chewing gum, a felony charge can be supported if other circumstances are present!

The new offense, Organized retail crime, is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of $5,000.00, or both.

The statute provides that a person is guilty of organized retail crime when that person, or in association with another person, does any of the following:

(a) Knowingly commits an organized retail crime.
(b) Organizes, supervises, finances, or otherwise manages or assists another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(c) Removes, destroys, deactivates, or knowingly evades any component of an antishoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of that device or to facilitate another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(d) Conspires with another person to commit an organized retail crime.
(e) Receives, purchases, or possesses retail merchandise for sale or resale knowing or believing the retail merchandise to be stolen from a retail merchant.
(f) Uses any artifice, instrument, container, device, or other article to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime act.
(g) Knowingly causes a fire exit alarm to sound or otherwise activate, or deactivates or prevents a fire exit alarm from sounding, in the commission of an organized retail crime or to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime by another person.
(h) Knowingly purchases a wireless telecommunication device using fraudulent credit, knowingly procures a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement, or uses another person to obtain a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement.

Our criminal defense firm
expects to see a greater number of shoplifters charged with a felony under the new Michigan Organized Retail Crime statute since the value of the property involved is irrelevant. This means that our defense strategy will focus on avoiding a felony conviction. Fortunately, we will continue to be able to utilize the Youthful Trainee Act to obtain dismissals for offenders age 17 but under 21. In addition, adult offenders may continue to be eligible for delayed sentence dispositions which can also result in dismissals pursuant to MCL 771.1.

Links to our other retail fraud blogs and web pages:

Retail Fraud
Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County
Charged With Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington Township
Retail Fraud and the 52-4 District Court in Troy
Retail Fraud and the 32-A District Court in Harper Woods
Handling Retail Fraud Cases in Clinton Township
Retail Fraud and the 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights
Retail Fraud and Larceny Require an Intent to Steal

Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts: Possession of Marijuana, Domestic Violence, Retail Fraud, Driving While License Suspended, Disorderly Conduct and Operating While Intoxicated

January 8, 2013,

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Our experience tells us that the most prevalent misdemeanor crimes which are prosecuted in the Macomb County District Courts by crime type are as follows:

Possession of Marijuana
Domestic Violence
Retail Fraud
Driving While License Suspended
Operating While Intoxicated
Disorderly Conduct

View image
A recent docket of cases in a Macomb County District Court

Fortunately, these common misdemeanors are manageable from the point of view of our criminal defense lawyers. Again, our experience is based upon handling 1000's of misdemeanor cases in all of the Macomb County District Courts.

When we refer to Macomb County District Courts, we are referring to:

37th District Court: Warren
38th District Court: Eastpointe
39th District Court: Roseville, Fraser
40th District Court: St. Clair Shores
41-A District Court: Sterling Heights
41-A District Court: Shelby Township, Macomb Township, City of Utica
42-1 District Court: Romeo
42-2 District Court: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township

Specific Provisions of Michigan Laws to Obtain Dismissals of Domestic Violence and Possession of Marijuana and Non-Public Record

In Michigan, there are distinct provisions of law designated for the crimes of Possession of Marijuana and and Domestic Violence to obtain a dismissal and suppression of the public record without going to trial. Our blog pages and web site contain several references to these provisions of law which may be linked as follows:

Domestic Violence: Michigan Compiled Laws 769.4a
Possession of Marijuana: Michigan Compiled Laws 333.7411

Delayed Sentencing and Dismissal of Retail Fraud and Disorderly Conduct Cases (also can be used for other misdemeanors and felonies)

There is also a delayed sentence law which is found at MCL 771.1. This law is a general provision which can be used for any criminal offense. Basically, it allows the Judge to delay the sentence and fashion a result or disposition that the offender can earn after a period of probation. Our criminal defense lawyers have utilized this provision of law extensively for numerous misdemeanor offenses including the commonly charged offenses of Retail Fraud and Disorderly Conduct. There are certain formalities to gain the benefit of a dismissal pursuant to MCL 771.1. Our criminal defense attorneys negotiate a plea bargain for application of MCL 771.1 with the prosecutor for a delayed sentence at a pretrial conference with the component of a dismissal after a period of probation. The Judge has the final say regarding acceptance of the usage of MCL 771.1 and whether dismissal will be provided at a future delayed sentencing date. For information, click here for a link to the blog page which pertains to Retail Fraud charges.

Operating While Intoxicated and Driving While License Suspended

The use or operation of a motorized vehicle is an essential element of the misdemeanor crimes of Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated. Possession of marijuana does not require the use of an automobile for the crime to occur. However, possession of marijuana cases often are the end result of a traffic stop after the police officer smells marijuana or obtains consent to search the vehicle or the occupant. We don't always agree with the police methods utilized to obtain consent to search which may involve subtle threats to get a search warrant or to call in the drug sniffing dogs.

Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated do not fit neatly into a special provision of law which allows for outright dismissals after a period of probation and compliance. In my opinion, you can thank the insurance industry for legislation that does not allow an offender to obtain expungement of a traffic offense or traffic related crime such as Driving While License Suspended or Operating While Intoxicated. Nonetheless, we are often able to obtain reductions of both Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated to minimize points, fines, driver responsibility fees, license sanctions and other sentencing consequences.

Continue reading "Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts: Possession of Marijuana, Domestic Violence, Retail Fraud, Driving While License Suspended, Disorderly Conduct and Operating While Intoxicated" »

We continue to provide public information to our readers - The Top 50 Most Frequently Charged Felonies in Michigan

November 13, 2012,

Top 50 Artwork.png

The Michigan Bar Association releases crime data for the state from time to time. While researching cases, we came across an informative article written by the Michigan Bar Association regarding the most frequently charged felonies in the State of Michigan. This article can be viewed here: Top 50 Felonies Most Frequently Charged in Michigan. Based upon our experience, I would agree: this list is an accurate representation of the types of cases that our Macomb County criminal defense firm handles on a frequent basis.

Listed below is a selection of the top felonies charged in Michigan:
Possession of a Controlled Substance (heroin, cocaine, analogues)
• Possession of Marijuana (double penalty for second offense)
• Possession of methamphetamine (MDMA)
Possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams (cocaine, narcotic)
• Possession of an Analogue controlled substance (pills)
• Possession with intent to deliver marijuana
• Manufacturer or delivery of less than 5 kilograms of marijuana
Drunk driving - 3rd offense
• Assault with Dangerous/Deadly Weapon ("Felonious Assault")
Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm
• Resist/Obstruct a Police Officer & fleeing and eluding
Criminal Sexual Conduct - 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Degree
• Keeping or Maintaining Drug House
Home Invasion
• Retail Fraud 1st Degree (Retail Fraud 2nd and 3rd Degree are misdemeanors)
• Larceny in a Building, Larceny from a Vehicle

Sometimes, the amount of loss will determine whether an offense is classified as a felony. Offenses, such as embezzlement and malicious destruction of property, are also on the list of top felonies when the value is $1,000.00 or greater. If the value of stolen property was less than $1,000.00, the offense would qualify as a misdemeanor.

Pursuant to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, felonies are further broken down into categories that determine the accompanying sentence. Punishment for each class is listed below:
• Class A - Life imprisonment
• Class B - Up to 20 years in prison
• Class C - Up to 15 years in prison
• Class D - Up to 10 years in prison
• Class E - Up to 5 years in prison
• Class F - Up to 4 years in prison
• Class G - Up to 2 years in prison
• Class H - Jail or other intermediate sanctions, such as fines

Note: A future blog will be dedicated to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.

Below, you will find connections to some of our blogs that are pertinent to felony cases:

All Felony-related Posts

Drug Possession

Felony Assault - Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Fleeing, Eluding and Obstructing the Police

First Degree Retail Fraud and Larceny

Third Drunk Driving Conviction

Child Abuse and Neglect

Felony Marijuana Possession

Continue reading "We continue to provide public information to our readers - The Top 50 Most Frequently Charged Felonies in Michigan" »

Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Michigan

August 28, 2012,


This is one of many blogs that our law firm has posted about the Courts where our criminal defense attorneys frequently practice in Macomb County. This is an informational public service blog about the 41-A District Court.

The 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights has jurisdiction from 14 Mile Road to M-59 and from Dequindre to Hayes. This geographical area of approximately 36 square miles contains several major Macomb County thoroughfares such as Hayes, Schoenherr, Van Dyke, Mound and Dequindre. Within Sterling Heights, you will find major shopping centers, the Lakeside Mall, major automotive factories and established residential areas. According to the 2010 US census, the city of Sterling Heights boasts a population of 129,699 and is the second largest suburb in the Metro Detroit area. For these reasons, there are three (3) judges that are needed to administer justice for the City of Sterling Heights. (GOOGLE MAP, CITY OF STERLING HEIGHTS)

The 41-A District Court has jurisdiction to handle non-criminal traffic tickets (civil infractions), criminal matters such as misdemeanors, drunk driving (OWI) and criminal traffic violations. Here is a partial list of offenses which fall under these offense classifications:

Civil Infractions: Speeding, Fail to Obey Traffic Device, Improper Turn, Careless Driving

Criminal Traffic: Drive While Suspended (DWLS), Reckless Driving, Leave Scene of Accident, Fail to Merge for Emergency Response Vehicle

Drunk Driving: Zero Tolerance, Operating While Intoxicated (DUI, OWI), Super Drunk (OWI With a High BAC over .17%)

Misdemeanors: Retail Fraud, Domestic Violence, Disorderly Conduct, MIP, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Paraphernalia, Malicious Destruction of Property (MDOP), Larceny under $200.00

Criminal Felonies: The district court handles the initial stages of a felony which include issuance of the complaint and warrant, arraignment, bond hearings and preliminary examination. Some arraignments occur after the accused receives a letter and appears voluntarily. The court also utilizes video arraignments for persons that are in custody.

Criminal Warrant Letters: Do not panic if you receive a letter from the Sterling Heights Police directing you to surrender yourself because a criminal warrant has been issued. This would be the time to hire a lawyer if you have not already done so. Our firm has positive experience with scheduling these matters or getting the job done immediately or before a holiday weekend (we don't like to have warrants hanging over our heads over a long weekend). Ordinarily, we can get the warrant, booking, arraignment and bond addressed without any entanglements.

Legal Objectives: Civil Infractions (Traffic Tickets)
As we have mentioned in our other blogs; if you are found guilty of a civil infraction, the offense will appear on your driving record and you will receive point. The Michigan point system is used to determine high risk drivers which can result in license suspension after a person accumulates 12 or more points. In addition, points are used by insurance companies to rate drivers and raise insurance premiums. Do you think insurance companies find it in their best interest to know when a customer has a new ticket? When handling civil infractions, we attempt to reduce or avoid both points and any offense appearing on a client's record.

Legal Objectives: Criminal Cases (Misdemeanors)
If you are found guilty of a criminal offense, it will stay on your permanent criminal record. Our goal is to avoid convictions or to obtain dismissals under special provisions of Michigan laws. While nobody can insure or guarantee that a criminal record will completely disappear after the case is concluded, we will aggressively seek the best case scenario by employing delayed sentence dispositions which result in dismissals for offenses like retail fraud, HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 but under age 21) and statutory first offender deals such as MCL 333.7411 for drug crimes and MCL 769.4a for domestic violence. Since our firm practices extensively in the 41-A District Court (Sterling Heights and the location in Shelby Township), I can say that the Judges are very receptive to outcomes which are consistent with our objectives based upon several years of experience in this jurisdiction.

The Court also has limited jurisdiction over the initial stages of felony cases which include: authorization of criminal charges, issuance of warrant, arraignment (bond) and preliminary examination. However, felony cases are ultimately resolved in the Circuit Court unless reduced to a misdemeanor in the District Court.

The 41-A District Court is located at 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313, Phone: 586-446-2500. The Presiding Judges for the 41-A District Court are Judge Michael S. Maceroni, Judge Stephen S. Sierawski and Judge Kimberley A. Wiegand.

Continue reading "Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Michigan " »

37th District Court Of Macomb County; Jurisdiction Covers the Cities of Warren and Centerline

July 25, 2012,


Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm's expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with traffic offenses, criminal (felony or misdemeanor) and OWI cases arising out of Warren and Centerline.

The 37th District Court has two locations which are located in the cities of Centerline and Warren. (MAP OF WARREN) The jurisdictional boundaries of these Courts covers 36 square (from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road and from Hayes to Dequindre). South of 8 Mile Road is the City of Detroit and West of Dequindre is the County of Oakland. Within the boundaries of the 37th District Court are major Macomb County roads, the I-696 expressway, industrial centers, General Motors Tech Center, Automobile Dealers, over 100 restaurants and retail establishments.

The Warren Police Department (WPD) is located directly behind the 37th District Court. The WPD is one of the most active law enforcement agencies in Macomb County with a major detective bureau, air force (helicopter) motorcycle and traffic patrol squad. The detective bureau has a drug enforcement team as well as other units which engage in various undercover operations including cracking down on prostitution. The Michigan State Police also have a presence in Warren as the law enforcement entity responsible for patrolling I-696 expressway.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and/or felony crime in the 37th District Court including drunk driving (OWI), drug crimes, disorderly conduct, prostitution, offer to engage or solicit sex from another, domestic assault, assault crimes, retail fraud, larceny, fraud, breaking and entering, child abuse, criminal sexual conduct, indecent exposure, malicious destruction of property, traffic violations, DWLS and probation violations.

As experienced criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, I can say that the 37th District Court is a just and fair place to practice law. What I mean is that Judges are willing to listen to arguments and fairly dispose of criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases. I have found that the Judges are willing to give a criminal defense attorney some leeway when a case goes to trial or preliminary examination. In addition, most criminal cases handled by our firm are resolved without trial (90% or more are resolved by aggressive plea negotiations).

Criminal Cases in the 37th District Court

We set various goals when a client is charged with a criminal or drunk driving offense. Avoidance of a criminal conviction and jail are on the top of our list of goals. Some of our success stories include reducing a felony to a misdemeanor or having a case taken under advisement with a dismissal after a period of probation and compliance with the Court's conditions. We have utilized every special provision of law in the 37th District Court to obtain dismissals of retail fraud, domestic violence, possession of drugs/marijuana, MIP and many other criminal offenses. The Court will also consider petitions to have youthful offenders (age 17 but under age 21) placed on a special status where the public record will be sealed and the offense dismissed for eligible offenders.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 37th District Court

I have found the Judges in the 37th District Court to take some mercy on first offenders whether they are charged with a criminal offense or drunk driving (OWI). Drunk driving cases rarely get dismissed. However, by aggressively defending our clients, an OWI charge can often be reduced to a lesser offense which will save a client money, points and driver responsibility fees. I have represented two (2) clients in July 2012 who had BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) results of .17% or greater. In both cases, I was able to have the charges reduced to impaired driving. (A chemical test result of .17% or greater is known as a "Super Drunk" case and the policy is usually against any reduction in the charge).

Traffic Violations in the 37th District Court

When resolving a traffic matter in the 37th District Court, we are often able to have traffic tickets amended and avoid points. A traffic ticket can be reduced to a Michigan civil infraction known as "impeding traffic" which does not appear on a person's driving record and does not carry any points.

We take every precaution to know the strengths and weaknesses of our cases, set realistic goals and formulate strategies to achieve favorable results. In doing so, we will obtain discovery (police reports, videos, test results), witness statements and make recommendations to our clients for counseling whenever this is an appropriate course of action.

37th District Court Locations:

Warren: 8300 Common Road, Warren, MI 48093 Phone: 586-574-4910

Centerline: 7070 East 10 Mile Road, Centerline, MI 48015, Phone: 586-757-8333

37th District Court Presiding Judges:

John Chmura, Matthew Sabaugh, Jennifer Faunce, Dawn Gruenburg

Soon, Judge Dawn Gruenburg will be leaving the 37th District Court for a Federal Judicial Appointment. She will be dearly missed. Her replacement will be appointed by Governor Rick Snyder. Our firm has sent letters to Governor Snyder in favor of qualified candidates.

42-2 District Court in New Baltimore (Macomb County) Fines and Costs Schedule for Misdemeanors and Drinking and Driving Cases

July 20, 2012,

Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm's expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 42-2 District Court in the City of New Baltimore where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with criminal and OWI cases arising out of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township.

The 42-2 District Court, located in the City of New Baltimore, has posted a list of possible fines and costs for various crimes. The list also contains a warning as follows: ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING, WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY. This warning is followed by strong language that failure to pay fines and costs will result in jail time.

42-2 District Court Drunk Driving Range of Fines and Costs

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the 42-2 District Court is from $500.00 to $1,000.00. For a second drinking and driving offense, the range jumps to $1,000.00 to $2,500.00. This does not include other costs such as probation oversight expenses, substance abuse screening, driver responsibility fees, police/municipal response costs, random testing and substance abuse counseling. The driver responsibility fee for OWI is $1,000.00 per year for 2 years and for $500.00 per year for 2 years upon conviction of Impaired Driving. Based upon my experience, Judge Hackel yields to the low side of the range for fines and costs with respect to drinking and driving cases compared to many other courts.

42-2 District Court Partial List of Fines and Costs for Misdemeanors and Drunk Driving

  • OWI, IMPAIRED First Offense $500.00 - $1,000.00
  • OWI, Impaired, Second Offense $1,000.00 - $2,500.00
  • Driving while License Suspended $300.00 - $500.00
  • Domestic Violence $300.00 - $800.00
  • MIP and Open Intoxicants $200.00 - $500.00
  • Disorderly Conduct $200.00 - $500.00
  • Possession of Marijuana $200.00 - $800.00
  • Retail Fraud $200.00 - $800.00

Again, the above range for fines and costs does not include probation oversight expenses, restitution to any victim, driver responsibility fees, evaluations, police/municipal response expenses and other possible costs.

I would also like to add that our firm can often have many of these listed crimes dismissed whenever a client is eligible for a delayed sentence or a first offender program. For example, our firm handled a retail fraud case for a client who did not have a prior record. The case was dismissed after a short period of non-reporting probation after the client paid only $300.00 fines and costs. We have had similar results in other cases involving domestic violence, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, youthful offenders (age17 to 20) and other criminal offenses.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. However, I have found that some Judges will consider a person's financial circumstances when imposing fines and costs. In addition, our firm has been able to advocate that an impoverished person be allowed to provide community service to defray fines and costs in extreme cases.

Judge Hackel is a Judge that will listen to a lawyer's arguments and be willing to give someone an opportunity to have a case dismissed upon compliance with terms of probation. He is a concerned and reasonable Judge that wants to see a person improve his or her life. However, like other Judges in most jurisdictions where we practice, he is not likely to be sympathetic if someone violates probation.

The 42-2 District Court has jurisdiction over the following municipalities: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. Judge William Hackel III is the presiding Judge for the Court which is located at 35071 23 Mile Rd New Baltimore, MI 48047, phone: 586-725-9500. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county's website.

Other Court and Community Blogs:









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St. Clair County; An International Border to Protect, Miles of Shoreline and Major Summer Events

May 18, 2012,

blue water bridge 2.jpg
St. Clair County is located in the south eastern part of the thumb area of Michigan. It is the gateway county to the northern thumb and the Great lakes. It is known as the Blue Water Area. St. Clair County borders Macomb, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties and is just a short distance (across the Port Huron River via the Blue Water Bridge) from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Water Bridge is a major international crossing from Canada into the United States. Interstate expressway I-94 runs north and south through St. Clair County, I -69 runs east and west and ends in the City of Port Huron. M-29 is the highway that is located on the eastern shoreline of St. Clair County which takes you in and around the St. Clair River and Anchor Bay. Map of St. Clair County Link.

The eastern side of St. Clair County consists of shoreline on the St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Anchor Bay and Lake St. Clair. The major cities which border these bodies of water are Port Huron (the county seat), St. Clair, Marine City and Algonac. One can enjoy views on the river (freighters, Canada) in any of the cities along these shoreline cities.

Click this link for a live web-cam of the Port Huron River and the Blue Water Bridge.

Recreational attractions in this area include boating, hunting and fishing. The City of St. Clair would be my top pick for dining (Charly's River Crab, St. Clair Inn) or enjoying the charm of a small town with a large park area dedicated along the river. In 2012, more than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the Blue Water Fest which occurs just prior to the Port Huron to Mackinac Race.

St. Clair County is well guarded and policed because of its international border with Canada and heavy recreational traffic. The courts in St. Clair County see a fair amount of cases associated with recreation violations, DNR violations, border crossing issues (on both the US and Canada side) and drunk driving cases. A drive along the winding highway of M-29 which meanders along the St. Clair River is not a place to be if you have had any alcohol or drugs. In some places, the road is only a matter of feet from the water. Unfortunately, a fair share of accidents and OWI cases occur on this road.

A traffic violation, drunk driving or criminal case (such as domestic violence, disorderly conduct, boating under the influence, drug crimes) in St. Clair County will wind up in the 72nd District Court in either Port Huron or Marine City:

72nd District Court (Port Huron)
201 McMorran Blvd.
Room 2900
Port Huron MI 48060

72nd District Court (Marine City)
2088 South Parker (M-29)
Marine City, MI 48039

The courts and law enforcement officers in St. Clair County tend to be protective of their communities. They have the responsibility of keeping order in an area which has an international border and hosts recreational activities which often involve alcohol. (Jobbie Nooner). Our experience in these courts has been positive. I find the Judges to be reasonable when it comes to first time offenders of criminal acts such as drunk driving, disorderly conduct or simple drug possession charges. Often, such an offender is looking at probation. If the offense involves a first time drug charge or the offender is age 17 but under age 21, a dismissal is possible special Michigan statutes (HYTA and MCL 333.7411).

Continue reading "St. Clair County; An International Border to Protect, Miles of Shoreline and Major Summer Events " »

Charged with Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington: What to Expect

May 17, 2012,

42nd-District-Court-Division-1-Romeo-Lawyer-Attorney-2.jpgThe objective of this blog post is to give readers an idea of what to anticipate if they are being charged with misdemeanor retail fraud in Romeo's District Court (42nd District - Division 1). Though our blog and website cover retail fraud extensively, the crime of retail fraud is the purposeful taking (or attempting to take) of an item from a store without the intent of paying for it. Concealing an item with the goal of not paying for it constitutes this type of theft even if you are apprehended before you leave the store.

Since the development of the 26 Mile corridor in Washington Twp., on the border of Shelby, our office has seen an increase of retail fraud calls originating from that area. Specifically, our office is frequently retained on retail fraud charges that occur at the Meijer located at 26 Mile Road and Van Dyke. A retail fraud allegation is one that should be taken very seriously. A conviction on one's permanent record indicating dishonesty can be particularly damaging for those applying for school or a job. However, where defendants retain experienced counsel they can typically keep this charge off their record and avoid being incarcerated.

Normally, a retail fraud proceeding that doesn't go to trial can be resolved in Romeo's District Court in 3 appearances; an arraignment, a pretrial, and a sentencing. One advantage of retaining counsel is that it will typically cancel out an arraignment date. Beyond allowing clients to avoid taking time off work, this also has favorable legal repercussions. Most notably, going to an arraignment unrepresented can result in an unfavorable resolution of the case or additional terms being added to the bond. If you are arraigned without an attorney it is ALWAYS advised you plead not guilty.

The goal in such a case is always to protect the client's record. This can be accomplished either through a HYTA (for youthful offenders) or 771.1(first time offenders) plea. Most of the time, the case will take two appearances from our office, a pretrial and a sentencing. It is our experience that the presiding Judge, The Honorable Denis LeDuc, really takes time to understand the defendant's background. To that end, he encourages family members to join the defendant at the podium. Further, before sentencing, it is often required that defendants be screened. A screening is an interview with the probation office to learn more about the defendant's background. Often they are seeking to determine underlying drinking problems, substance abuse issues, and/or mental health complications.

The case concludes with a sentencing, where we have found that clients, so long as they are cooperative during proceedings, are very likely NOT looking at jail. A typical sentence in this Court for a retail fraud charge is going to be about a year of probation. Depending on the circumstances it may be reporting or non-reporting, possibly with testing and counseling where the facts warrant it. If a deferral has been offered (which as we stated it usually is for first time or youthful offenders) there will be no conviction after successful completion of a probationary term.

Continue reading "Charged with Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington: What to Expect" »

Oakland Mall and Somerset Collection Retail Fraud Cases and the 52-4 District Court in Troy, Michigan

May 1, 2012,

troy court.jpg

The City of Troy is one of Michigan's premier cities for commercial office space, hotel space, upscale housing, restaurants and retail establishments. Yet Troy remains one of the safest cities in Michigan according to a 2011 report. The government complex, located off Big Beaver Road and I-75, is where you will find the 52-4 District Court and the Troy Police Department which I can say are proactive when it comes to maintaining this reputation of Troy.

While Troy is considered a safe city as far as violent serious crimes are concerned, Troy gets it share of retail fraud cases which occur at the major retail shopping destinations which include the Oakland Mall and the Somerset Collection. These malls are among the busiest in the State of Michigan and retail fraud is not a crime that will be treated lightly by the Judges at the 52-4 District Court.

Retail fraud is classified by the degree of seriousness and whether the offender has a prior record. Retail fraud in the first degree is a felony which can carry 5 years in prison. Retail fraud in the second or third degree are misdemeanors:

Retail fraud in the second degree is a misdemeanor where the property stolen has a value of $200.00 but less than $1,000.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Retail fraud in the third degree is a misdemeanor where the value of property stolen has a value less than $200.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

The ultimate goal which we seek for our clients is the avoidance of a retail fraud conviction. Such a conviction is a mark of dishonesty on a person's permanent criminal record. Fortunately, our experience in handling retail fraud cases in Troy has been positive as far as first offenders are concerned. The same is also true in other venues with major retail establishments where we practice including all of the district courts in Macomb County such as Sterling Heights and Clinton Township. In this regard, we attempt to utilize special provisions of law such as HYTA (Youthful Trainee Status for offenders age 17 and under age 21), Delayed Sentence (MCL 771.1) or the First Offender Program to gain a dismissal of the conviction. Absent aggravating circumstances, these provisions are available upon getting concurrence from the prosecuting attorney, probation department and the Judge at the time of sentencing.

I will explain the court process for someone who obtains a first offense misdemeanor retail fraud.

Pretrial Conference: After arraignment, a retail fraud case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. It is at this stage where a criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a recommendation that the case be considered for a dismissal pursuant to one of the available provisions as I mentioned in the previous paragraph (HYTA, Delayed Sentence, First Offender Program). A disposition pursuant to this course of action will avoid trial but mean that the person will have to admit to the offense of retail fraud.

Pre-sentence Report
: After the pretrial conference, a person will be required to be interviewed by the probation department. The 52-4 District Court has its own probation department (52-4 District Court Probation Department link) located inside of the court building. Our attorneys like to have our clients well prepared for this interview because the probation department can recommend for, or against, the client getting a deal which can mean a dismissal.

Sentence: At the time of sentence, we will be able to review the report prepared by the probation department. The Judge has the final say as to whether a person will be given the opportunity to have the conviction dismissed. When the Judge grants disposition pursuant to HYTA, MCL 771.1 or the First Offender Program, an offender can expect to be placed on probation for at least one (1) year, along with fines, court costs and other conditions. Other conditions may include a retail fraud class, community service and testing for illegal substances and alcohol.

If the person complies with the conditions ordered by the Court, the conviction will be dismissed at the end of probation. Upon failure to comply, the person will face a probation violation hearing and possible sanctions which include jail and placing the conviction on one's record!

Continue reading "Oakland Mall and Somerset Collection Retail Fraud Cases and the 52-4 District Court in Troy, Michigan" »

Addressing Special Concerns of Selfridge Air National Guard Reserves and Personnel Charged With Criminal Offenses

April 26, 2012,


Selfridge Air National Guard Base (SANG) is one of the oldest military air fields in the United States. It is located in the Township of Harrison, County of Macomb and is situated on prime Lake St. Clair property. Approximately 6000 air and army national guard, as well as civilian employees, are employed and/or housed at the SANG base. There are numerous units assigned to SANG including the 127th Wing (Michigan Air National Guard), customs and border protection and the Coast Guard.

There are many SANG military personnel who are married, live on or off base, and are residents of a state other than Michigan. Our attorneys have represented SANG military personnel for numerous legal matters including drinking offenses (drinking and driving), domestic violence, assault crimes, drug crimes and retail fraud (shoplifting). Anyone in the military who is charged with a criminal offense faces special circumstances which we are prepared to defend. We understand that when a military person (reserved or enlisted) gets into trouble, he or she faces possible rank demotion, loss of security clearance and/or dishonorable discharge from military service upon conviction for a criminal offense.

When a military person becomes a client of our firm, we are aware of their special needs and potential consequences. Certain convictions may be detrimental to a military career. There are other ramifications such as travel restrictions and possible incarceration. When a drinking a driving (DUI or OWI) is charged, the issue may be less compelling and only involve the driver license sanctions for a non-resident. Our job is to identify the needs of our military clients and address these particular needs and concerns. For example, a recent client who was charged with domestic violence needed permission to travel out of the state and the country. The case was resolved favorably whereby the case will be deferred and dismissed after a period of probation. The Judge also granted permission for our client to travel out of state and out of the county.

Upon being retained, we ask our military clients to obtain documentation and references which may include:

  • Civilian and Military Achievements, Medals, Deployments
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Counseling Report
  • Deployment Orders

Our goal is always to avoid a conviction or seek a result that will not jeopardize our client's future with the military. Our results include cases which are dismissed, reduced or dismissed after a period of advisement. Unfortunately, drinking and driving cases are rarely dismissed outright. However, we are usually able to have the charges reduced, avoid jail and obtain permission to travel upon transfer or deployment.

Our firm approaches criminal cases involving military personnel quietly, discreetly and with diplomacy. Fortunately, I have found the prosecutor's, law enforcement and the courts in Macomb County to be sensitive to those that are serving their country.

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

December at Our Law Office and Holiday Crimes: Retail Fraud, Drunk Driving and Domestic Violence

December 6, 2011,


Well, December has never been a month where business is slow at the shopping malls or at our law firm. December is the month when people get out of their routine. What I mean is that many tend to drink more, spend more money, drive more frequently and have greater periods of time with family members. Existing drinking problems, substance abuse, depression, strained relationships and financial troubles are put to the test during the holiday season. All of these situations can lead to criminal problems such as drunk driving, retail fraud and domestic violence.

As a Macomb County criminal defense lawyer, I consider myself sensitive to the needs of our clients during the holidays. What can you say when someone gets charged with retail fraud (shoplifting) who has no employment or suffers from depression? While I do not condone criminal activity, I am just saying that people are people and I do not sit in judgment of those who are less fortunate or troubled. I have found that the Judges in Macomb County to be reasonable with those who have no criminal record but find themselves charged with retail fraud under various circumstances including financial hardship. In these cases, our attorneys are able to negotiate a plea bargain to have the case dismissed after a period of probation and conditions which may mean attending an economic crime class. This is true for clients that we have represented throughout Macomb County.

The holiday season is also a time of parties and gatherings which invariably involve alcohol. I have represented my share of teatotallers and social drinkers who have one too many at a holiday house party and wind up being charged with drunk driving. This can happen to anyone who has a few drinks and gets stopped by the police a few blocks from home. I cannot count the number of clients that I have represented for drunk driving who are pulled over in their own subdivision or even while pulling up in their own driveway. In Michigan, a person is considered legally drunk if his blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or greater regardless as to whether or not the person was actually intoxicated. To make matters worse, Michigan has passed a super drunk law making it a more serious crime if the blood alcohol content is .17% or greater. Sobriety is not a defense to a charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI or DUI) or Super Drunk. Various drink/weight index charts provide an approximate blood alcohol content (BAC) which can be helpful for anyone considering a few drinks before driving. The best advice that I can give is to have NONE FOR THE ROAD since the BAC charts are only an approximation and do not take individual tolerances into consideration; Even one drink can create misunderstandings in the eyes of the law if an accident occurs and someone is injured or dies.

Lastly, our attorneys see a fair amount of domestic violence cases during the holidays. Again, too much togetherness with the family and awkward social gatherings may be outside of the comfort zone. Emotions run high and money worries, existing depression along with substance abuse can come full circle which sometimes leads to arguing, fighting or domestic violence. A person who is charged with domestic violence may be removed from the home (no-contact order) and be unable to spend the holidays with family. The need for family counseling and a lawyer could not be greater under these circumstances. Our attorneys will try to schedule an expedited hearing with the Court to remove the no-contact order whenever possible. Removal of the no-contact order will require the consent of the spouse. In addition, our firm has had numerous domestic violence charges dismissed under a special provision of Michigan's domestic violence laws.

All of the above situations can occur anytime of the year. At our firm, we never pass judgment on anyone and welcome the opportunity to provide guidance to our clients faced with personal and legal problems.

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

August 10, 2011,

Eastland_Center_Logo.gifIn Michigan, retail fraud, more commonly referred to as shoplifting, is an aggressively prosecuted and pervasive offense. Frequently, our office defends these cases in Harper Woods where the Eastland Mall is located and many of these offenses occur. Originally opened in 1957, the facility houses large department stores including the Burling Coat Factory, Macy's and Sears. Most large chain stores have loss prevention (see our related post) and prosecute theft aggressively.

What is it that you need to know if you are being charged with retail fraud? Defendants should take note that the prosecution need not prove that you left the store with misappropriated merchandise. Pursuant to MCL 750.356d it only needs be shown that intent not to pay is coupled with one of the following;

- Altering merchandise,
- Transferring merchandise,
- Removing merchandise,
- Replacing merchandise,
- Concealing merchandise,
- And/or misrepresenting the priced value of the merchandise.

It is usual for those being charged with retail fraud to be overcome with feelings of embarrassment and anxiety. While a serious charge, retail fraud (especially a first offense) is one that can be handled if an aggressive legal defense is utilized early on in the proceedings.

Our practice of these cases in the 32-A District Court is as follows. Characteristically we can have these issues resolved with one appearance. Many times, we can secure a plea offer where the charge will come off of the client's criminal record. This can be accomplished via the Youthful Trainee Act (sometimes referred to as MCL 771.1. Record preservation, especially for a theft crime, is crucial and is always one of our firm's three goals for a retail fraud case. We further aim to eliminate jail time and minimize the terms of probation.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, what can defendants expect when being sentenced in the 32 - A by Judge Roger J. La Rose? Judge La Rose will oftentimes attempt to reach out to defendants. We have observed him in many instances take the time to really see what the underlying circumstances are in the defendant's life that caused them to end up in trouble in the first place. Our office has observed that sentences in this Court include (sometimes with other conditions)

- 6 - 12 month probation,
- Fines and costs,
- And/or attendance of a misdemeanor class.

It is recommended that those being prosecuted for theft crimes retain the assistance of an attorney. Our office has been handling criminal matters in Macomb County for over 30 years and always fights to ensure our clients receive optimal disposition of their criminal charge. For a free consultation regarding a retail fraud charge, or any pending criminal matter, call our office at 586 412 5555

Handling Shoplifting - Retail Fraud Cases in Clinton Township

July 20, 2011,


On October 18, 2007, the Mall at Partridge Creek opened in Clinton Twp. A sprawling open air complex, Partridge Creek quickly became the premier shopping destination in Macomb County, as it was the first large retail establishment to open since Lakeside Mall in 1976. The facility features a variety of high end chains, including an Apple Store, Nordstrom, Express, and Parisian (amongst others). Typically, large commercial establishments such as Partridge Creek become targets for theft. Usually these high end retailers have in-house loss prevention departments and actively push to prosecute shoplifters.

In Michigan, the crime of shoplifting is prosecuted as an offense known as "retail fraud". The crime of retail fraud can be charged as a criminal misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the dollar amount of property involved. If the value of the property stolen is under the value of $1,000.00, it is a misdemeanor.

What can those being prosecuted for a theft crime (retail fraud) in Clinton Twp. expect? Our office's experience with retail fraud cases in Clinton Township's 41-B District Court is as follows. The 41-B District Court is located at 22380 Starks Drive, Clinton Twp and is presided over by the Honorable Judges Davis, Lucido, and Fuca. Typically these cases can be handled in one appearance, and our goal is always record preservation. First time offenders are eligible for Michigan's delayed sentence law, MCL 771.1. Under this provision, violators will have their criminal record cleared of a retail fraud/shoplifting offense so long as they comply with the terms of their probation. This is particularly important for those searching for jobs or applying to school. A theft crime in the eyes of many employers and educators is indicative of dishonesty, and thus is important to have cleared from one's record.

Often times those being charged with retail fraud are ashamed, afraid, and embarrassed. In many instances people being charged procrastinate to hire an attorney. However, it is advised that those facing theft charges employ the counsel and representation of an attorney immediately. These offenses, especially first offenses, are very manageable. First time offenders in Clinton Twp. are likely looking at the following terms of probation

- 12 month reporting probation
- Attendance of a theft program
- Community service
- Fines and costs

Our office keeps an open mind and a recurring theme from our previous blog about retail fraud is that we understand that people make mistakes. For all retail fraud cases we have three main objectives;

- Eliminate jail time
- Minimize the terms of probation
- Keep the offense off client's record

Our office believes those to be realistic goals when representing clients in the 41-B District Court and always advocates diligently to that end. If you are being prosecuted for retail fraud call the Abdo Law Firm today to set up a free consultation, 586-412-5555