Articles Posted in Larceny

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Consequences of a felony conviction

Being accused or charged with any crime, misdemeanor or felony, is a serious matter requiring the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. A felony is defined as an offense that can carry more than 1 year in jail up to life in prison. If the offense carries 1 year or less in jail, it is classified as a misdemeanor.  In addition to the possibility of jail/imprisonment, felonies have greater sentencing consequences in the court system and negative ramifications outside of the court system including:

  • A felony can carry imprisonment up to life.
  • The court can impose up to five (5) years probation for a felony and a maximum of two (2) years for a misdemeanor.
  • Sex Offender Registration (SORA) is required upon conviction for most sex crime felonies.
  • Travel into Canada is forbidden for a person convicted of a felony.
  • A person convicted of a felony cannot own or possess a firearm.

 

 

While researching cases, we came across an  article written by the Michigan Bar Association regarding the Top 50 Felonies Most Frequently Charged in Michigan in the State of Michigan. This list of cases also is consistent with the caseload that our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers see on the dockets of courts located in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair counties.

With more than 40 years experience specializing in criminal defense, I can say that the majority of our clients facing felony charges have never committed a prior felony and the underlying conduct supporting the felony charge does not involve egregious misbehavior.  Nonetheless, a felony charge is possible even for offenses involving simple possession or when a theft involves property valued greater than $1,000.00.

Top Felonies in the Metro-Detroit Courts

Pursuant to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, felonies are 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

 

Below is a list of the most prevalent felony crimes that we routinely handle in the Metro-Detroit courts and that also that fall within the top 50 felonies in Michigan.

Crime Statistics for Macomb County

The Michigan State Police maintains annual crime reporting statistics for each county in the State of Michigan. For 2017, approximately 50,000 crimes were reported in Macomb County. As criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, these statistics are meaningful in various ways. The economy, social influences (“me too”), crime waves and police practices are all factors that can have a bearing on crime reporting. Statistics indicate that all larcenies constitute the largest number of crimes reported. Nearly 10,000 larceny related crimes reported which include the following:

  • Larceny from a building
  • Larceny from a motor vehicle
  • Larceny misdemeanors (under $1,000) and Larceny felonies (over $1,000)
  • Theft of motor vehicle parts and accessories

Retail fraud (shoplifting) offenses are not included in the above statistic. Separately, approximately 2,500 retail fraud cases were reported in Macomb County for 2017. Retail fraud is classified as a misdemeanor when the amount involved is under $1,000 and a felony if the amount involved is $1,000 or more. The cities in Macomb County that reported the highest number of retail fraud for 2017 were: Roseville (536), Warren (463), Sterling Heights (425), Chesterfield Township (265)  and Clinton Township (209). The numbers for these cities are not surprising considering that these areas all have large retail centers and stores (Target, Meijer, Kohl’s, Costco, Sam’s, Walmart) within their jurisdiction.

Drug Residue or $1.00 more than $999.00 May Lead to a Felony Charge!

DRUG CRIMES: Simple possession of drugs tops the list of felony crimes in Michigan. The drug crime of possession of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor.  As I have stated, a felony charge may be lodged for unintended behavior. For example, a person may be charged with felony possession of drugs when a police search reveals a minuscule quantity of drug residue. Felony charges can be prosecuted even though the drug residue is unusable, un-measurable and is scraped from a pipe or from the carpet of a vehicle. In researching this matter, I found that the prosecutor in Harris County, Texas has a adopted a policy to avoid prosecuting those found with drug residue. While this is a step in the right direction, Michigan has not adopted this policy. In addition to residue cases, drug charges may be brought against an innocent passenger of a motor vehicle because drugs are found in a compartment or area of the vehicle within reach, possession or view of the passenger(s).

THEFT & PROPERTY CRIMES: Several other felony crimes fall within the theft offense, or property crime category, including retail fraud, embezzlement, credit card fraud, uttering and publishing. A crime can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony without any intent or deliberation to wind up in that position. For example, if a theft related offense (embezzlement, retail fraud 1st degree) involves a claim of loss of $1,000.00 or more, the prosecutor will bring a felony charge. If the amount of loss is $999.00 or less, it is a misdemeanor. The danger and concern that exists is when the alleged victim makes a claim that is greater than the actual loss. Not all property crimes are dependent upon the property value. Crimes such as uttering and publishing, credit card fraud, larceny in a building, larceny from a motor vehicle constitute felonies without regard to the value of property misappropriated. Michigan State Police statistics for 2017 indicate that more than 7,000 crimes relating to larceny were reported in Macomb County.

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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

A pretrial conference is a meeting that is attended by the attorneys for the parties in a criminal or civil case. The major purposes of a pretrial conference are to facilitate resolution of a case, management of a case for trial or management of a case regarding pertinent issues (as listed below). A pretrial conference is scheduled after either a criminal or civil case is filed with the court, a case number and a Judge are assigned. In Macomb County, criminal pretrial conferences are held soon after the arraignment. For misdemeanors, which occur in Macomb County, the pretrial conference will always be held at the district court (click here for complete listing of links to Macomb County District Courts). Felony pretrial conferences can occur on the date scheduled for a preliminary examination and again after the case is bound over to the circuit court. A person charged with a crime (the defendant) is required to be present on the date scheduled for pretrial conference. However, he or she is usually not allowed in the conference room with the attorneys. On the other hand, police officers and victim’s rights advocates with court business are allowed in the conference room. Likewise, an alleged victim may be present at the pretrial conference as the prosecutor must obtain the victim’s consent for a plea bargain in most criminal cases.

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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!
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woman shoplifter.jpgAlso 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
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