Articles Posted in Retail Fraud

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Drug Crimes, Assault Crimes, Theft Crimes High of List of Most Frequent Felonies in Michigan

Being accused or charged with any crime, misdemeanor or felony, is a serious matter requiring the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. A crime classified as a felony is invariably worse than a petty crime or misdemeanor. 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.  Felonies have other consequences including: loss of rights to own or possess firearms, up to 5 years probation, possible term of imprisonment, international travel restrictions and the stigma of a felony conviction.

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 35 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.

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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41B District: How to Get a Second Chance if Charged with Retail Fraud 3rd Degree

The 41B District Court is located at 22380 Starks Drive, Clinton Township, Michigan, 48038. This Court has jurisdiction which encompasses Clinton Township, Harrison Township and Mount Clemens. It is trial court with full authority to handle all proceedings with respect to misdemeanor offenses that do not carry more than 1 year in jail.

The 41B District Court region is densely populated with national retailers (Walmart, Target, Lowes), retail strip centers and the Partridge Creek Mall which opened in 2007. This publication is about the crime of retail fraud (shoplifting) and how it can be managed with a positive result in the 41B District Court.

We have practiced criminal law extensively in the 41B District Court and longer than most law firms in Macomb County. I can say that in my nearly 40 years of practicing in this district, the 41B District is a court where the judges will give offenders a second chance as I will explain in this publication.

Penalties for Retail Fraud Depend on Prior Record of Offender and the Value of Property Involved

In Michigan, the crime of shoplifting is prosecuted as an offense known as “retail fraud“.  Retail fraud crimes are classified according to degree based upon the value of property or money attempted to be misappropriated. An offense can also be enhanced to a higher degree if the offender has a past record for retail fraud.

  • 1st Degree Retail Fraud, Felony: Maximum Penalty: Up to 5 years in prison, $10,000.00 fine, court costs. Value of Property or Money: $1,000.00 or more
  • 2nd Degree Retail Fraud: Misdemeanor: Maximum Penalty: 1 year jail, $2,000.00 fine, court costs. Value of Property or Money: $200.00 but less than $1,000.00
  • 3rd Degree Retail Fraud: Misdemeanor: Maximum Penalty: 93 days jail, $500.00 fine, court costs.  Value of Property or Money: Under $200.00

Triple Penalty: In addition to the above penalties, the court has the option to  impose a fine, or a penalty up to 3x the amount of property or money attempted to be misappropriated, whichever is greater.

Civil Demand Letter: The retail business may send a letter requesting up to $200.00 from the alleged offender even before the case is within the court system. The criminal retail fraud matter will not be dropped just because this amount is paid. The civil demand for money and the criminal proceedings are separate and distinct matters.

Retail Fraud 3rd Degree is Most Common: Concealment, Altering Labels, Failing to Scan at Checkout

The offense of Retail Fraud 3rd Degree is the most common form of shoplifting which means that the amount or value of the property attempted to be taken without authority is under the value of $200.00. Retail fraud can be committed in many ways including by:

  • Concealment of merchandise
  • Altering labels or misrepresenting the price
  • Returning stolen merchandise
  • Attempting to defeat self checkout barcode scanned

If you find yourself in this position, stop worrying and thinking that you are a bad person. We have represented people from all walks of life that have never been trouble but get caught commiting a petty theft offense and are required to deal with the court system for the first time ever. Don’t attempt to represent yourself unless you are 100% sure that you know how to deal with a Macomb County Prosecutor or city attorney assigned to the case. In addition, you will be judicially interrogated at some point in time. Saying the wrong thing can result in the case being scheduled for a jury trial and missing an opportunity to get out of the system.

But I Didn’t Intend to Steal Anything and I had the Money in My Purse or Wallet to Pay…

We hear it all the time and so do the judges that preside over retail fraud cases: “I didn’t intend to steal anything, it was a mistake” and “why would I need to shoplift something when I had the money to pay for it.” Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can win your case with these assertions. These are old tired excuses that are likely to result in a guilty verdict at trial. I would say that these excuses honestly apply to a less than 5% of all retail fraud cases, yet we hear this from about 50% of the clients that come through our doors.  Again, saying the wrong thing in the courtroom can get you stuck in system and lead to a devastating irreversible guilty verdict.

Getting Out of the System with a Delayed Sentence and Dismissal!

If you are caught shoplifting, getting a skilled Macomb County criminal defense lawyer with experience handling retail fraud cases in the 41B District Court is is the right move if you want a shot at getting a second chance.  As I have mentioned, it is important to know how to approach these matters with the prosecuting attorney and the judge. In other words, we will protect you from drawing attention to negative aspects of your case. Being successful in the majority of these cases means that we know how to identify a client with the prosecutor and the judge as an “isolated offender’. In doing so, we are able to get  a dismissal of the offense after a period of probation under a special provision of law (MCL 771.1) known as a delayed sentence. Upon compliance, the offender can obtain an official copy of the dismissal from the court to prove compliance and that the matter was dismissed. This often all that is needed to save someone future complications associated with employment or college applications.

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41-A District Courts: 2 Courts Cover 108 Square Miles of Macomb County

Jurisdiction of the 41-A Districts: Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica

The 41-A District Court corridor encompasses the cities of Sterling Heights, Utica, Shelby Township and Macomb Township. These areas are in a period of strong economic growth and expansion. In these areas you will find industry, major retail shopping centers, Jimmy John’s Field, 7 Class A high schools, numerous bars and restaurants.  In this area you will also find the M-53 Expressway, Hall Road and other major roads which handle a massive amount of local, commuter and connector traffic. These areas have a reputation for being safe places to live and visit. However, the 41-A District Courts cover a huge area, growing population and a high volume of criminal, drunk driving and traffic matters on their dockets as I will discuss in this publication.

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MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURT MAP

STERLING HEIGHTS DIVISION: 41-A District: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313:  The Sterling Heights Division of the 41-A District Court covers an area of 36 square miles with its borders from 14 Mile Road to Hall Road, and its east to west borders from Hayes to Dequindre Road. According to 2010 census records, the City of Sterling Heights has a population of approximately 130,00. The Sterling Heights court docket is managed by 3 elected judges. The Honorable Michael S. Maceroni, Stephen P. Sierawski and Kimberly A. Wiegand have long held these positions.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP DIVISION: 41-A District Court: 51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Township, Michigan 48316: The Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court also covers a 72 square mile area with jurisdiction over criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases that occur within Shelby Township, Macomb Township and the City of Utica.  Shelby Township and Utica have their own police departments. Macomb Township utilizes the Macomb County Sheriff Department to patrol its roads and provide law enforcement services. There is only 1 elected judge appropriated to the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District which encompasses jurisdiction over a population of approximately 160,000. This is somewhat of an anomaly given the fact that 3 judges are assigned to the Sterling Heights Division which has a significantly lesser population and is half the size geographically. The Honorable Douglas P. Shepherd presides over the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court. A new court building, which is long overdue, has been recently approved for the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court.

Criminal Cases in the 41-A District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 41-A District Courts. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 41-A District Courts dockets in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Divisions:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 41- A District Courts, you will appear either before a magistrate or judge.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at arraignment by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. Most judges will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise take.  In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions upon a person’s release from jail. Drug and alcohol testing are common bond conditions for those charged with any crime involving drugs or alcohol. A ‘no-contact order‘ is assured in assault cases, domestic violence, sex crimes and all other crimes involving a victim. In retail fraud cases, the accused party may be instructed to refrain from entering the establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. A motion for a hearing can always be filed to modify bond conditions, remove a no-contact order or eliminate travel restrictions.

Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries up to 1 year in jail.  Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the circuit court for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and can remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.

The outcome of a criminal case in the 41-A District Courts, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many components.  The most significant factors that can have a bearing on a case are:

  • The prior criminal history of the accused party.
  • Whether another party was injured or property was damaged.
  • Whether the accused party can provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children).

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 41-A District Courts. Whenever possible, the judges in both divisions will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 41-A District Courts: 215 DUI cases in 2016

Hall Road (M-59), M-53, Van Dyke, Dequindre, Schoenherr and Hayes are just a few of the major roads that are within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Court’s territory. Statistics for 2016 reveal a high number of drunk driving arrests in this region with approximately 170 arrests in Shelby Township, 60 arrests in Utica and 193 arrests in Sterling Heights. Over 120 of the test results in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights alone registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or ‘OWI with a high BAC’.

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APPROXIMATE BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC) CHART

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 38th and 39th District Courts. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

  • Probation for 1 year or less
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days
  • Attend an alcohol or substance abuse program (discretionary)
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings (discretionary)
  • 4 points on driving record

Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain to a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of an ignition interlock system on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense.

Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of some jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in almost every Macomb County court.

Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison.  Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation if reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are handled in the Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination. We evaluate every DUI 3rd for opportunities to get it reduced to a misdemeanor by filing strategic legal motions, negotiations and filing a deviation request.

The 41-A District Court Probation Department: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313

The 41-A District Courts share the probation department located at the Sterling Heights Division. I expect the Shelby Township Division to have its own probation department once the new court building is up and running.

It is within the judge’s discretion whether or not to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a criminal or drunk driving offense. In many cases that qualify as isolated incidents, we may be able to convince the judge that probation, also known as community supervision, is not necessary. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting probation.  The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the district courts is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most first time offenders.

Traffic Violations in the 41-A District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

The Sterling Heights Police, Shelby Township Police, Utica Police, Macomb County Sheriff Department and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Courts.  Similar to other districts, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of cases that are litigated at the 41-A District Court.


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Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township and Sterling Heights share roads with the heavy traffic volume in Macomb County

When resolving a traffic matter in the 41-A District Courts, we are often able to negotiate a reduction or avoid points. A substantial reduction in a traffic ticket occurs when it is reduced to an offense such as impeding traffic or double parking. A traffic ticket that is reduced to impeding traffic or double parking does not carry any points and will never appear on a person’s driving record! We are also able to get favorable results for individuals charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses such as driving while suspended, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Yet most courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and giving offenders the convenient option to pay by credit card.  What they won’t tell you on their website is that you will get points on your driving record and that you may will wind up with higher insurance premiums for several years. Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.

Link to Sterling Heights Points and Fine Schedule

Link to Shelby Township Points and Fine Schedule

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What you can expect if you are involved in a criminal, drunk driving or traffic matter in the Cities of Warren and Centerline

Our publications explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm’s expertise. This publication is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients charged with criminal matters, (misdemeanors and felonies) drunk driving and traffic tickets.

The 37th District Court has two locations which are located in the cities of Centerline and Warren. The jurisdictional boundaries of these Courts cover 36 square miles (from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road and from Hayes to Dequindre). The Centerline and Warren Police Departments, as well as the Michigan State Police, patrol the streets and major roads within the boundaries of the 37th District Court; including I-696, Dequinder, Ryan, Van Dyke, Schoenherr, Hayes and 8 Mile).  The City of Warren is also home to many industrial centers, the General Motors Tech Center, automobile dealers,  restaurants, bars and retail establishments.

The locations of the 37th District Court are:

  • Warren Location: 8300 Common Road, Warren, MI 48093, Phone: 586-574-4910
  • Centerline Location: 7070 E. Ten Mile Road, Centerline, MI 48015, Phone: 586-757-8333

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 impressive detective bureau, helicopter unit, motorcycle and traffic patrol squad. The detective bureau has a drug enforcement team, as well as other units, which engage in various undercover operations.  The drug enforcement unit keeps close tabs on its 8 Mile Border and regularly arrests individuals that are caught returning to Warren after buying drugs (heroin) in the City of Detroit.  The Michigan State Police also have a presence in Warren as the law enforcement entity responsible for patrolling I-696 expressway.

Criminal Cases in the 37th District Court: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

The 37th District Court has 4 elected judges. Each judge rotates once per month to preside over the Centerline caseload. As experienced criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, I can say that all of the judges are extremely fair. They are judges that will listen to arguments and fairly dispose of criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases. In my opinion, the 37th District Court is a court with a philosophy of rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, and eligible offenders are given a second chance.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 37th District Court. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 37th District Court dockets in both Centerline and Warren:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: The 37th District Court is notorious for setting high bonds on individuals charged with a felony.  Often, the family of an incarcerated person needs to utilize the services of a bondsman for financial reasons. A bondsman typically will charge a non-refundable 10% fee for the use of his resources and also require a collateral agreement.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at arraignment by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. Most judges will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise cost.  In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions upon a person’s release from jail. Drug and alcohol testing are common bond conditions for those charged with any crime involving drugs or alcohol. A ‘no-contact order‘ is assured in assault cases, domestic violence, sex crimes and all other crimes involving a victim. In retail fraud cases, the accused party may be instructed to refrain from entering the establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. A motion for a hearing can always be filed to modify bond conditions, remove a no-contact order or eliminate travel restrictions.

Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries up to 1 year in jail.  Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the circuit court for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and can remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.

The outcome of a criminal case in the 37th District Court, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many circumstances.  The most significant factors that can have an impact on a case are:

  • The prior criminal record of the accused party.
  • Cooperation with the police (no resistance or difficulty at the time of arrest).
  • Whether another party was injured.
  • Whether the accused party can provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children).

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 37th District Court. Whenever possible, the judges will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 37th District Court: 215 DUI cases in 2016

The highways and roads within the jurisdiction of 37th District Court are well traveled. They are used to cross town from the northern suburbs to the City of Detroit and to travel from the east side to the west side. Within its boundaries, there is an abundance of traffic associated with the I-696 expressway, the automotive industry and retail establishments. Heavy traffic volume is the reason that we see so many drunk driving cases within the 37th District Court. In 2016, Warren and Centerline administered a total of 215 breath and blood tests for individuals charged with drunk driving or drugged driving. Over 50 of the test results registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or operating with a high BAC (.17 or greater).

Statistically, more than 90% of drunk driving cases do not go to trial and are resolved negotiating and entering into a plea bargain.

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 37thDistrict Courts. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

  • Probation for 1 year or less
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days
  • Attend an alcohol or substance abuse program (discretionary)
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings (discretionary)
  • 4 points on driving record

Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain for a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of an ignition interlock system on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense, not just a Super DUI.

Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of some jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in almost every court.

Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison.  Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation ONLY if reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are handled in the Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination. Click here for more information on felony procedure.

The 37th District Court Probation Department: 8300 Common Road, Warren, Michigan 48093

The 37th District Court  has its own probation department which is located in the Court building at 8300 Common Road, Warren, Michigan. Both Centerline and Warren use the probation department at this address. It is within the judge’s discretion whether or not to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a crime or drunk driving offense. In many cases that qualify as isolated incidents, we may be able to convince the judge that probation, also known as community supervision, is not necessary. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting.  For obvious reasons, no probation or non-reporting is preferable.  The probation department utilizes on-line reporting. When allowed to report on-line, the probationer is not required to personally appear at the probation department to report unless otherwise instructed to do so. The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the 37th District Court is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most misdemeanor offenses.

Traffic Violations in the 37th District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

The Warren Police, Centerline Police and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic with the jurisdiction of the 37th District Court.  I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of types of cases that are litigated at the 37th District Court. When resolving a traffic matter in the 37th District Court, we are often able to get a reduction or avoid points. A traffic ticket can be reduced to a Michigan civil infraction known as impeding traffic or double parking which are offenses that will never appear on a person’s driving record and do not carry any points.

Court personnel are forbidden by law to give legal advice. Yet courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and conveniently providing an option to pay by credit card.  Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer and wind up with a record and points that will have an impact on insurance premiums for several years. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.

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Judges have heard it a million times before: “I didn’t intent to steal anything”

In this publication, we discuss how a retail fraud offense can be dismissed for eligible offenders in the Macomb County District Courts. In addition, we warn you that an opportunity to get a dismissal can be lost by saying the wrong thing to the prosecutor or the judge such as, “it was an accident” or “I didn’t intend to steal anything and had the money in my purse to pay for it.”

Places where retail fraud cases are prevalent, some common variable in retail fraud cases

Retail fraud cases are on the rise and are always one of the most frequently charged misdemeanor offenses in the Macomb County District Courts where we practice extensively.  While every court in Macomb and Oakland County sees its fair share of retail fraud cases, the courts which are located in regions with shopping malls, major retailers (Target, Kohl’s, Walmart, Home Depot, Meijer) and major shopping corridors have the greatest number of retail fraud cases on their dockets for obvious reasons. While each offender has a different reason for committing the offense of retail fraud, some of the common variables that we are seeing in our Macomb County retail fraud cases (especially retail fraud 3rd degree/under $200.00) are as follows:

  • Isolated Incident: Our typical client charged with retail fraud is a female without any prior record.
  • Merchandise such as lingerie and cosmetics are are popular items taken by because they are more easily concealable.
  • We are seeing more retail fraud crimes by attempting to deceive self-checkout bar code scanners.
  • Many of our clients who have been accused of retail fraud have made legitimate purchases at the same time while at the retail establishment.
  • The value of the property taken is under $200.00.

Retail fraud = concealing property, changing price tags, knowingly paying less than true price, defeating bar-code scanners

Retail fraud usually involves the act of taking property, usually by concealment, from a retail establishment without paying for it. It may also involve changing price tags, paying less than the actual price by engaging in conduct to defraud the establishment or by attempting to defeat  a bar-code scanner at the point of purchase. The degrees and penalties for retail fraud are as follows:

Retail fraud penalties: Prior record of offender may increase penalty; possible felony charges

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.

  • 1st Degree Retail Fraud, Felony: Maximum Penalty: Up to 5 years in prison, $10,000.00 fine, court costs. Value of Property or Money: $1,000.00 or more
  • 2nd Degree Retail Fraud: Misdemeanor: Maximum Penalty: 1 year jail, $2,000.00 fine, court costs. Value of Property or Money: $200.00 but less than $1,000.00
  • 3rd Degree Retail Fraud: Misdemeanor: Maximum Penalty: 93 days jail, $500.00 fine, court costs.  Value of Property or Money: Under $200.00

Triple Penalty: In addition to the above penalties, the court has the option to  impose a fine, or a penalty up to 3x the amount of property or money attempted to be misappropriated, whichever is greater.

Civil Demand Letter: The retail business may send a letter requesting up to $200.00 from the alleged offender even before the case is within the court system. The criminal retail fraud matter will not be dropped just because this amount is paid. The civil demand for money and the criminal proceedings are separate and distinct matters.

Some reasons that someone commits shoplifting or retail fraud, impulsive behavior

In 2016, 22,639 retail fraud crimes were reported in the State of Michigan. This number is broken down by gender (Males reported:  12,046, Females: 10,593) and by age groups. The breakdown of retail fraud incidents by age groups for 2016:

  • Juveniles Under Age 17:  1,760
  • Ages 17-24:  5,721
  • Ages 25-29:  2,541
  • Ages 30-34:  1,886
  • Ages 35-39:  1,503
  • Ages 40-44:  1,026
  • Ages 45-49:  1,064
  • Ages 50-54:  887
  • Ages 55-59:  590
  • Ages 60-64:  306
  • Ages 65 and up:  202

There are some reoccurring reasons as to “why” a person commits a retail fraud offense. Shoplifting is not limited to those that are downtrodden and underprivileged. In general, our clients are usually the kind of people that have never been in trouble and their conduct can be described as an isolated incident. In extreme cases, we have also represented those that suffer from a compulsive shoplifting disorder. It is our job to work with our clients to understand why a client engaged in risky behavior so that we can provide effective legal representation and solutions.

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 behavior is not limited to juveniles or youthful offenders. Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers have represented individuals in every age group and every walk-of life including senior citizens and mini-van-moms who site impulsiveness as a reason for committing an act of retail fraud. 
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.

Macomb County Courts: Getting a second chance!

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.
  • Cooperation with authorities.
  • 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. At some point during the legal proceedings, the offender will be judicially interrogated. Saying the wrong thing to the prosecutor or the judge can result in permanant conviction.  The guidance of a criminal defense lawyer can make a huge difference in whether the offender gets stuck in the system or gets a second chance for a dismissal.  In the following Macomb County District Courts, a plea bargain with a disposition for a dismissal is feasible for first offenders charged with retail fraud 3rd degree:

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 avoid jail and a felony conviction. Our experience has been that most retail fraud cases are resolved favorably by knowing our courts and knowing our clients.

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Retail fraud is the formal criminal charge when a person is caught shoplifting in Michigan.  Although the information in this publication is relevant to our retail fraud practice in Macomb County, I would say that the vast majority of the retail fraud cases that we handle in the 42-1 District Court occur at the Meijer store located in Washington Township on the northeast corner of  26 Mile and Van Dyke. Most of those that we see facing retail fraud charges in this jurisdiction are first time offenders or those with a minor prior criminal record which we try to discount in the court system. The age of a person does not have any barriers for those who commit the offense of retail fraud. Our firm has represented individuals that qualify as juveniles (under age 17) as well as senior citizens. Some reasons associated with the conduct of retail fraud are financial distress, psychological issues, substance abuse, recent loss of a loved one, PTSD, adjustment to medications and peer pressure.  However, I would say that isolated impulsive behavior is the number one reason that a person commits an act of retail fraud.  

Retail fraud may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony

Retail fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the value of the property involved. Here is how the State of Michigan breaks it down in the Michigan Penal Code:

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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.

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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

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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:

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. When we represent a youthful offender (age 17 but before age 24), we can petition the court to have the individual assigned to HYTA status which also results in a dismissal and sealed record upon successful completion of probation. Our blog pages and web site contain several references to these provisions of law which may be linked as follows:

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 with certain exceptions. Basically, it allows the Judge to delay the sentence and fashion a 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.
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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:

ROMEO FINES AND COSTS

RETAIL FRAUD IN ROMEO OR WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

ST CLAIR COUNTY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 52-4 DISTRICT COURT TROY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 32-A DISTRICT COURT HARPER WOODS

RETAIL FRAUD IN THE 41-B DISTRICT COURT CLINTON TOWNSHIP

CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC JURISDICTION OF THE 42-2 DISTRICT COURT

41-A DISTRICT COURT, STERLING HEIGHTS
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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.
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