Articles Posted in Retail Fraud

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Romeo: 42nd District Court Division 1

Above, is a map of Macomb County with a geographical breakdown of the 9 district court borders. The 42nd District Court-Division 1 is located in the City of Romeo. It is often referred to as the Romeo Court. The court has jurisdiction over a greater area of land than any other district court in Macomb County and serves the following northern Macomb County communities: Romeo, Washington Township, Armada Village, Armada Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Memphis (south of Boardman Rd), Ray Township and Bruce Township.

New Baltimore: 42nd District Court Division 2

The 42ndDistrict Court Division 2 is located in the City of New Baltimore and it serves the communities of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Village of New Haven and the Lenox Township.

Traffic and Criminal Caseload of the 42nd District Courts

The 42-1 District Court, which is the one located in Romeo, and the 42-2 District Court, located in New Balimore, have jurisdiction over civil disputes not exceeding $25,000.00, and the following other legal proceedings:

Arraignments: All misdemeanor and felony arraignments occur at the district court level. Arraignment is the first stage of a criminal case following authorization of a criminal charge.

Misdemeanors: The district courts have complete jurisdiction over misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to one year in the county jail and/or fines up to $1,000.00.

Felonies: All felony cases begin in the district court for arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. Felony proceedings beyond preliminary examination are handled in the higher circuit unless resolved in the district court by a reduction to a misdemeanor.

Traffic: The district courts have complete jurisdiction over traffic tickets. Getting a lawyer to fight a traffic ticket to avoid points and higher insurance premiums is a wise investment.

Drunk driving, domestic violence and retail fraud are some of the most prevalent cases on the criminal dockets at the 42-1 District Court and the 42-2 District Court. Judge William Hackel presides over the 42-2 District and Judge Andary presides over the the 42-1 District Court.  Because of our consistently high criminal caseload at these courts, we consider both 42nd District Courts to be “home-town” courts. This ABDO LAW publication will focus on our experience representing clients charged with drunk driving, domestic violence and retail fraud cases at the 42nd District Courts.

Drunk Driving 

Getting nailed for drunk driving can be an ordeal no matter where it happens. However, it does make a big difference if you get a local Macomb County DUI/OWI lawyer that is experienced with the court and the judge assigned to your case.

Nationwide, less than 10% of all drunk driving cases wind up going to trial. This statistic holds true for drunk driving cases that are heard at the 42nd District Courts located in Romeo and New Baltinore, as well as every other district court in the counties of Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair. However, I can tell you that if you get an OWI/DUI in the 42-1 District (Romeo Division) or the 42-2 District Court (New Baltimore Division), you are looking at the best-case-scenario. By best-case-scenario I mean that you are looking at getting the charge REDUCED, NO JAIL and NOT LOSING YOUR LICENSE. This is true for the drunk driving cases that we have handled for FIRST TIME OFFENDERS in the 42-1 and 42-2 District Courts from 2020-2021 where we were able to get every OWI and High BAC (.17 or more) dropped down to a lower charge with NO JAIL.  There are a few differences in the way things are done in the sister courts located in Romeo and New Baltimore. The Romeo Court is more likely to require supervised probation and alcohol testing for first offenders than New Baltimore. However, Romeo’s Judge Andary will consider early termination of probation and modification of random testing for individuals that are have been compliant.

The following are your most common options if you are charged with drunk driving

  1. Hire an attorney to negotiate the best possible plea bargain and advocate for a minimal sentence. Note: even felony drunk driving third offense can potentially be reduced to a misdemeanor!
  2. File motions to seek dismissal or reduction in the charge(s) based upon:  lack of evidence of intoxication or impairment, mistakes as to testing protocol, illegal traffic stop, lack of evidence to support the element that vehicle was “operated” by the defendant.
  3. Conducting a trial before the judge or a jury.

As I mentioned, more than 90% if OWI/DUI are resolved when an attorney can negotiate a favorable outcome that is far better than risking a guilty verdict to the higher original charges at trial. Because a local Romeo or New Baltimore drunk driving attorney knows the local polices, politics and procedures, you should never plead guilty as charged without getting sound legal advice. Watch your ass if you are getting your legal advice from the cop that arrested you and said that you don’t need a lawyer. You should also know that the court personnel are forbidden to give legal advice by every district court in Macomb County.

Link: extensive coverage of DUI/OWI cases in Macomb County.

Shoplifting-Retail Fraud

The terminology given by the Michigan Penal Code for the crime of shoplifting is “retail fraud.” Intentionally changing price tags, concealing merchandise and failing to scan merchandise are all forms of retail fraud. The offense of retail fraud may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. In Michigan, a misdemeanor is defined as an offense that is punishable by not more than 1 year in the county jail while a felony is a criminal offense punishable by more than 1 year – up to life in prison. The dollar amount of underlying theft and/or the prior retail fraud criminal record of the offender are the determining factors as to whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties for retail fraud are as follows:

First degree retail fraud: Theft of property of $1,000.00 or more constitutes retail fraud in the first degree, which is a felony under Michigan law, and carries up to 5 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of property stolen.

Second degree retail fraud: Theft of property of $200.00 up to $1,000.00 constitutes retail fraud in the second degree and carries up to 1 year in county jail, up to $2,000.00 fine or 3 times the value of property stolen.

Third degree retail fraud: Theft of property under $200.00 constitutes retail fraud in the third degree and carries up to 93 days in jail, up to $500.00 fine or 3 times the value of property stolen.

Judge Jennifer Andary and Judge William Hackel will go out of their way to give someone a second chance. Normally, almost every misdemeanor, including retail fraud, can be favorably resolved in the 42-1 District and the 42-2 District.  To be specific, both courts will take a retail fraud under advisement or set a deferral period. Upon successful completion of the deferral period the case is DISMISSED. During the deferral period, the offender is required to comply with any of the following conditions ordered by the court:

  • Attend appropriate program ranging from a 1-day class to a long-term substance abusecounseling program.
  • Possible drug/alcohol testing.
  • No contact with the retail establishment where the offense occurred.
  • Payment of combined fines and costs approximately $1,000.00.
  • Possible community service.

If you are charged with a felony, ask a local Macomb County criminal defense lawyer how it is possible to get it reduced to a misdemeanor, avoid jail and avoid a felony record.

Link: extensive coverage of retail fraud cases in Macomb County

Domestic Violence and Assault

The crimes of domestic violence and assault & battery are found in MCL 750.81

Most of those that we represent for domestic violence or assault have never been in trouble with the law and are looking for a way to get out of the system Scott-Free without a domestic violence conviction. An outright dismissal of a domestic violence or assault crime in Macomb County is possible when the victim does not want to prosecute. This is not as easy as it sounds and the services of an experienced local Macomb County criminal defense attorney can make a huge difference between getting a case dismissed and winding up with a big fat legal mess.  A local Macomb County domestic violence lawyer will formulate an individualized strategy to deal with the following potential problems that may arise:

  • How the victim should respond to the prosecutor and victim’s rights advocate.
  • Whether the victim will be held in contempt of court for failing to appear for a court date or trial.
  • How to deal with the prosecutor that intends to use the police report and witness statements when the victim does not cooperate.
  • How to avoid getting hit with witness tampering and/or obstruction of justice accusations.

Big 3 Options if you are charged with Assault or Domestic Violence: There are 3 options in the criminal justice system for a person charged with an assault crime or domestic violence which are as follows: 

  1. Seeking a dismissal when the victim adamantly does not want to testify or appear against the accused party.
  2. Pleading pursuant to MCL 760.4a which will result in a dismissal after a term of probation.
  3. Conducting a trial before the judge or a jury.

Link: extensive coverage of assault and domestic violence cases in Macomb County

 

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Retail fraud can occur by concealing property,

by engaging in certain fraudulent activity or bypassing a checkout scanner.  

41A District Courts: Locations in Sterling Heights and Shelby Township

Criminal cases which occur in Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township and Utica are handled at one of the above 41A District Courts. The Shelby Township location has jurisdiction over cases that occur in Shelby Township, Macomb Township and Utica.  41A District covers a large geographical area in the County of Macomb with two court locations: 

There are numerous retail establishments and shopping corridors situated within the jurisdiction of the 41A District Courts.  In addition to Lakeside Mall, there are numerous other national retailers and big box stores located on the M-59 corridor and on major shopping corners and centers throughout Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Utica and Macomb Township including Sam’s, Meijer, Walmart, Kmart, CVS, Home Depot, Lowes Home Improvement, Target and Kohls.

The courts, police and prosecutor will not give you legal advice!

This publication is based upon our law firm’s extensive experience practicing criminal law in the 41A District Courts. Do not hesitate to hire a lawyer to protect your rights if you are being accused or charged with a crime. The courts, police and prosecutor will not give you legal advice.

Retail Fraud is Shoplifting: Possible arrest on the spot or released and notified of a court date

The crime of shoplifting, which is called retail fraud in Michigan, is one of the most prevalent crimes that we see in both of the 41A District Courts as well as every other district court in Macomb County!

Retailers use a variety of resources to deter theft and identity shoplifters. The offense of shoplifting, or retail fraud, occurs when a person does any one of the following acts with an intention to steal property from a retail establishment:

  • Conceals property on his or her person, or otherwise, with the intent to steal.
  • Changes a price tag or label with the intent to create or cause a misleading transaction.
  • Attempts to defeat the self scanning checkout system.

After identifying a shoplifter, the loss prevention employee will obtain identification and detain the suspected party unless apprehension and detention is dangerous or met with resistance. Insofar as possible, loss prevention employees are trained to avoid confrontations which could result in personal injuries or liability to the retailer.  The shoplifter may be held in custody until a bond is posted or released and  notified of a court date in about 30 days.

Once apprehended for retail fraud, one of the following scenarios may occur:

  • The police are called to the scene and the person may be arrested, booked and released on bond until a court date is scheduled.
  • The person may be released and notified by mail once the case is within the court system.
  • The person may be issued a ticket or notice to appear in court within 10 days or on specified date.

Video Evidence of Self Scanner Fraud: Getting caught red handed is one way that shoplifters get nabbed.  Reviewing video footage of a particular customer’s shopping activity is another way that retail fraud offenders are flushed out.  If a customer is suspected of retail fraud, particularly at a self checkout scanner, a loss prevention officer may track the customer’s credit card transactions and match them up with the video of the person’s checkout activity. If the customer is seen placing items in a bag, or bypassing the checkout scanner, without paying for the items, the customer may be charged with retail fraud. The following are a few ways people steal at self checkout terminals:

  • Failing to scan items, usually of greater value (leaving them in a shopping cart).
  • Placing an item in a bag or in the bagging area without scanning it.
  • Creating confusing to distract store employees.

Multiple charges may be levied against a single customer if the video evidence reveals several illegal transactions. The transactions may be combined to charge an individual with multiple crimes or the separate transactions may be consolidated to elevate the crime to a felony if the amount involved is $1,000.00 or more.

The evidence in a retail fraud case will consist of the police report, any witness statements, confession of the accused party and any photographic or video evidence of the incident. Employees and loss prevention officers of the retail establishment will be asked to cooperate with the prosecutor and the court system in later proceedings against the accused party.

Penalties for Retail Fraud: Criminal Record, Possible Deportation

Retail fraud in the first degree is a felony. Retail fraud in the second and third degree are misdemeanors. Retail fraud is a crime of dishonesty which could result in a permanent criminal record if not handled by an experienced retail fraud lawyer. Retail fraud is also considered a crime involving moral turpitude which can result in deportation for non US citizens. Thus, a person who faces retail fraud charges should hire a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can provide invaluable sound legal advice and a strategy which could keep result in a dismissal of the offense, depending upon the circumstances and the prior criminal record of the offender.  The penalties for retail fraud are:

  • Retail Fraud First Degree: If the value of the merchandise is $1,000.00 or more, up to 5 years in prison and/or fine up to $10,000.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.
  • Retail Fraud Second Degree: If the value of the merchandise is $200 but under $1,000.00, up to 1 years in jail and/or fine up to $2,000.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.
  • Retail Fraud Third Degree: If the value of the merchandise is under $200,up to 93 days in jail and/or fine up to $500.00, or 3 times the value of merchandise.

Michigan Law provides that a person who commits an act for which he or she could be charged with retail fraud is liable to the merchant for the full retail price of un-recovered property or recovered property that is not in salable condition, and civil damages of 10 times the retail price of the property, but not less than $50.00 and not more than $200.00.

In addition, the court can order restitution at the time of sentencing. Restitution is compensation for a victim’s losses.

Retail Fraud Cases DISMISSED!

You are not alone if you facing a shoplifting charge. Some of our clients say that they are happy when they got caught because it (shoplifting) was getting out of control. Others do not have a history of shoplifting but committed the offense on an impulse or desperation. Having a lawyer by your side is your best bet to insure that your rights are protected and to avoid saying the wrong thing that can hurt your case in the legal system. Don’t convince yourself that you can outsmart the legal system.  First of all, based upon our experience handling retail fraud cases in the 41A District Courts, 100% of of first time retail fraud offenders are eligible for

If you are charged with a first offense for retail fraud, a disposition for a dismissal is a realistic goal. Based upon our experience, more than 95% of all retail fraud cases are resolved without a trial. There are several provisions of law which we can use to get a retail fraud case case dismissed including: 

  • HYTA allows youthful offenders to get a dismissal and the record sealed from public view.
  • Juveniles, age 17 or under, may be eligible for consent calendar to get a criminal charge dismissed, sealed and with no record created.
  • Adult offenders may be eligible to get a retail fraud deferred and dismissed under a special provision of law.
  • For aliens (non US citizens), our goal is to get the charge amended to a non-deportable offense.

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An alien (non-US citizen) faces deportation for certain crimes such as retail fraud or domestic violence. Among other steps, getting the crime dismissed or amended to a non-deportable crime is the  key to avoiding deportation.

What does INS stand for?

INS  is the abbreviation that stands for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services. The INS is responsible for handling immigration and naturalization issues. The immigration arm of INS is responsible for the process of a foreign person, alien to the United States, to become a permanent citizen. Becoming a citizen is a complex process. A person that is found guilty of certain crimes may not only be denied citizenship but also face deportation.

What types of crimes can result in deportation?

An individual that is not a United States citizen (alien) may face deportation if convicted of a crime that constitutes either of the following:

According to federal laws, 8 U.S. Code 1227, an alien may be deported for the following: 

  • Crimes of moral turpitude: Any alien who is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years (or 10 years in the case of an alien provided lawful permanent resident status) after the date of admission, and is convicted of a crime for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed, is deportable.
  • Multiple criminal convictions: Any alien who at any time after admission is convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct, regardless of whether confined therefor and regardless of whether the convictions were in a single trial, is deportable.
  • Aggravated felony: Any alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission is deportable.
  • High speed flight: Any alien who is convicted of a violation of relating to high speed flight from an immigration checkpoint is deportable.
  • Failure to register as a sex offender is deportable.
  • Any alien who at any time after admission is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment.
  • Retail fraud (shoplifting).

Can an alien that is convicted of drunk driving or impaired driving be deported?

A conviction of an offense in Michigan for operating while intoxicated (OWI) or impaired driving (OWVI) is NOT a crime that involves moral turpitude and is not deportable.

Can a person be deported upon being convicted of drunk driving or impaired driving?

Deportation is not imposed against an alien convicted of drunk driving or operating while impaired. However, a person convicted of drunk driving that has other criminal convictions may face deportation because of a bad criminal record. In addition, a drunk driving with other aggravating factors may result in deportation. Drunk driving that involves a serious personal injury or death are felonies and are deportable crimes.

Retail Fraud is a deportable offense

A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) is defined as an act that is depraved, dishonest, or vile.  A misdemeanor or felony may constitute a CIMT. Some examples are rape, fraud, murder, arson, and assault with the intention to rob or kill. A person may be deported if convicted of a CIMT within five years of admission to the US or if they commit 2 or more unrelated CIMTs at any time after they are admitted. A petty offense exception may apply if the penalty for the crime is less that 1 year.  In Michigan, the crime of shoplifting is called retail fraud. Retail fraud is a deportable crime in because it is a CIMT that involves dishonesty.

There are ways for an alien that is charged with retail fraud, or other CIMT or aggravated felony, to avoid deportation. The key is to get the CIMT charge amended to one that is a non-deportable crime. There are other measures that need to be taken to avoid the scrutiny of deportation scrutiny. Once the charge is reduced, the original police report cannot be used on the court record as a factual basis to establish the amended outcome.

Criminal charges can have a huge impact on immigration status. Immigration status can be changed Do not hesitate to hire a criminal defense lawyer that understands how to represent aliens facing criminal charges that can . You absolutely need to hire the best criminal defense lawyer if you are not a United States Citizen and you are  charged with a felony or crime involving moral turpitude!

The prosecutor’s consent is required to get a plea bargain, or to get the charge reduced or amended to an offense that does not require deportation. The prosecutor may also need to obtain the consent of the victim. There may be other steps that we would recommend to insure a soft landing which may include: attending a counseling program paying restitution to the retail establishment and obtaining character letters. We have had extremely favorable results representing aliens charged with a CIMT,  such as retail fraud or larceny,  by getting the CIMT dismissed and amending it to a non-deportable charge such as “disturbing the peace” or disorderly conduct.

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Michigan’s clean slate law makes it possible to get a fresh start and wipe out several prior convictions including one offense for drunk driving.

Summary of Michigan’s Clean Slate Law

Michigan’s expungement law has been broadened to allow for more offenses to be expunged on an individual’s criminal record than at any other time in history. MCL 780.621 contains the provisions of Michigan’s expungement law. The following is a summary of this law:

  • Individuals will be able to get up to 2 felonies and 4 misdemeanors automatically cleared. Crimes punishable by more than 10 years in prison, violent crimes, “crimes of dishonesty” such as forgery, human trafficking and other serious crimes that carry a sentence of life in prison, domestic violence, traffic offenses where someone was seriously injured or died, child abuse, sexual assault, and operating while intoxicated aren’t eligible.
  • Allows misdemeanors to be automatically expunged after 3 years, felonies after 7 years, and serious misdemeanors or a single felony to 5 years, shortening the waiting time to apply for expungement.
  • Up to 3 felonies and an unlimited number of misdemeanors may be expunged, but no more than 2 assaultive crimes and no more than 1 felony if it’s punishable by more than 10 years in prison.
  • Allows felonies or misdemeanors from the same 24-hour period — to be treated as one conviction for expungement. Assaultive crimes, crimes involving a dangerous weapon and crimes punishable by 10 or more years in person can’t be included.
  • Effective February 19, 2022, a first and only offense for driving under the influence, impaired or with a High BAC (.17 or more) may be expunged!
  • Allows those with marijuana misdemeanor convictions to apply for expungement if their offenses would have been legal for recreational use if the crime occurred after cannabis was legalized in 2018.
  • Allows a conviction for 4th Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct that occurred before January 12, 2015 to be expunged if the individual has not been convicted of another offense other than 2 minor offenses.
  • Minor offenses are a misdemeanor or ordinance violation with a maximum term of imprisonment of 90 days or less.

The Clean Slate Law makes Michigan a nationwide leader in expungement reform. To date, only Utah, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey allow low-level offenses to be automatically cleared from records, and Michigan will now be the first to include low-level felonies in the automatic process. For thousands of Michiganders, this is an opportunity for a better life. Michigan’s Clean Slate Law creates a more just, equitable, and inclusive expungement process.

Expungement of Drunk and Impaired Driving

Effective in February 2022, an individual will be able to get 1 lifetime offense for driving under the influence expunged. Eligibility to expunge an OWI won’t come easy. First of all, the individual can have one offense expunged if that individual has only one DUI offense on his or her record. The DUI expungement law will allow for expungement of any 1 of the following offenses:

  • Operating While Intoxicated
  • Operating Under the Influence of Drugs
  • Operating While Impaired
  • Operating with a High BAC .17 or greater
  • Zero tolerance/minor with any BAC

Operating under the influence causing an injury or death are not eligible for expungement. One of the rules for anyone seeking to expunge an DUI will require the applicant to prove that he or she has resolved any underlying alcohol or substance abuse problem. This may require getting a current substance abuse evaluation and other documentation of sobriety.

The Expungement Process in Michigan

Expungement proceedings are complex and doing it yourself can be a daunting undertaking. If you fail to notify required parties (Attorney General, prosecutor, Michigan State Police) or fail to obtain a record clearance , the case will be dismissed. There are several required involved when it comes to getting an expungement. The proceeding for expungement has The DUI expungement Michigan process is very rigorous and time-consuming.

While every case varies, our format for successfully setting aside and expunging convictions typically involves the following steps:

  • Preparation of all documents.
  • Obtaining a certified copy of your conviction.
  • Correctly filing documents with the court.
  • Obtaining supporting documentation and character letters when necessary/
  • Notifying all parties including the prosecutor and Michigan Attorney General.
  • Submission of fingerprints to the Michigan State Police for a record clearance.
  • Scheduling the required court hearing.
  • Preparing our client for the hearing.
  • Appearing at the hearing.
  • Providing an Order to Set Aside Conviction.

Do I have to say I was convicted of a crime after it is expunged?

Once you are granted an expungement of a crime, you are not required to ever list it on a job application or mention it in an interview. In fact, if you are asked, you can say:

I DO NOT HAVE ANY CRIMINAL RECORD. 

How to Obtain a Copy of Your Record

The Michigan State Police maintains a central registry of criminal records in a system known as the Law Enforcement Information Network. Access to LEIN is restricted to criminal justice agencies or those agencies statutorily granted authorization. However, an individual can obtain of his or her own criminal record by following the instructions on the Michigan State Police ICHAT link: http://apps.michigan.gov.

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GET A SECOND CHANCE: Dismissal of Retail Fraud in the 41B District Court

The 41B District Court is located at 22380 Starks Drive, Clinton Township, Michigan, 48038. This Court has jurisdiction which encompasses the geographic areas of Clinton Township, Harrison Township and Mount Clemens. It is trial court with full authority to handle all misdemeanor proceedings. A misdemeanor is defined as a criminal offense that carries up to 1 year in jail but does not carry prison time. The 41B District Court also handles felony cases from the early stages of arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination.

The 41B District Court region is densely populated with big name national retailers (Walmart, Target, Lowes, CVS), retail strip centers and the Partridge Creek Mall which opened in 2007. This publication is about the crime of retail fraud (shoplifting) cases and how to get a positive result in the 41B District Court system.

Getting charged with retail fraud looks bad and sounds worse and is very embarrassing. Most of our clients charged with retail fraud are good people that have contributed to society and are afraid of being labeled a  thief. In general, many of our clients express a personal problem by engaging in retail fraud and just need a wake up call. We have practiced criminal law extensively in the 41B District Court and have practiced longer than most law firms in Macomb County and Metro Detroit. 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: Don’t be surprised if you get a letter with a demand for civil restitution soon after being charged with retail fraud. 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 committing 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. There are also proactive moves that can made to get the best possible outcome and reduce your time in the 41B District Court system. We can explain how to keep your record clean of any theft related offense even if you tell us that you are guilty of the crime. Our goals are always the same: AVOID CONVICTION & AVOID HARSH PENALTIES!

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 in my pocket or purse to pay for it.” Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can win your case with these assertions. Again, saying the wrong thing in the courtroom can get you stuck in system and lead to a devastating irreversible guilty verdict. You may be eligible to get the case dismissed without trial even if you are guilty. 

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. Again, the 41B District Court has jurisdiction over matters that occur in Clinton Township, Mount Clemens and Harrison Township. 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.  There are also other possible results which include dismissals pursuant to HYTA for youthful offenders (age 18 but under age 26)  or amending the offense to a non-theft infraction. Once a case is resolved or dismissed, the offender can obtain an official copy of the resolution or dismissal from the court. Legal proceedings have a way of following a person and getting solid proof of the disposition from the court is the best way to avoid misunderstandings and possible future complications associated with the underlying case.

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macomb-courts-logoMacomb County District Courts

We have dedicated this  article to give you the big picture on the topic of misdemeanors in Macomb County. This project is based upon our experience handling more than 10,000 criminal cases in Michigan. Misdemeanor cases are handled in the local district courts for each county. The district court system in Michigan is broken down based upon population. This map illustrates the jurisdictional picture of the district court system in Macomb County where misdemeanor cases are adjudicated:

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The list below contains links to the district courts located in Macomb County:

Most Prevalent Misdemeanors in Macomb County

In Michigan, each crime is classified as either misdemeanor or felony. The maximum term of incarceration determines whether a crime is classified as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that carries 1 year or less in jail. A felony is defined as a crime that carries more than 1 year, up to life, in prison.

Based upon our experience, the following are the most prevalent misdemeanor crimes that you will find on the dockets of the Macomb County District Courts:

Each of the above offenses constitutes a crime. Drunk driving, retail fraud, MDOP and assault may also be charged as felonies depending upon the circumstances. Upon conviction, the offense will appear on a person’s permanent public criminal history with the Michigan State Police and the FBI. With some exceptions, most misdemeanors are eligible for expungement.

Our research indicates that there are several thousand arrests in Michigan for misdemeanor offenses. Drunk Driving cases account for roughly 10,000 arrests each year in the Counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne.  In 2018, approximately 20,000 property crimes were reported in Macomb County alone. Property crimes include retail fraud, MDOP, other larceny crimes, joyriding and embezzlement.

Certain misdemeanor offenses may be more prevalent in a particular geographical area because of specific police activity. For example the following criminal offenses are targeted by the police and thus more prevalent in these areas:

Penalties  and Consequences for Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are extremely serious matters. The presiding district court judge has vast power to sentence an individual following a conviction for a misdemeanor. The list of potential penalties and consequences for a misdemeanor conviction are as follows:

  • Jail: Up to 1 year incarceration.
  • Fine, court costs and cost of prosecution in the judge’s discretion.
  • No limit on restitution for any loss, injury or damage to victim(s) or third parties such as insurance companies.
  • Probation for up to two (2) years.
  • Probation for up to five (5) years for stalking.
  • Substance abuse counseling, attendance of AA meetings.
  • GPS monitoring (in cases such as stalking).
  • Loss of right to obtain a concealed pistol license (CPL) for a period of 3 years or 8 years, depending upon the offense.
  • Suspension or revocation of driver’s license for traffic misdemeanors and OWI.
  • Points added to your driving record for traffic misdemeanors and OWI.
  • No contact order as a bond condition and during the entire period of probation.
  • Alcohol and drug test testing as a bond condition and during the entire period of probation.
  • Travel restrictions as a bond condition and during entire period of probation.
  • Reporting to a probation officer at intervals to be determined by the judge.
  • Deportation for non-US citizens upon conviction of misdemeanors that constitute crimes of moral turpitude.

Getting an experienced criminal defense attorney can be the best decision that you can make if you are charged with a misdemeanor. There may be ways to avoid a conviction altogether, have the offense reduced or amended and avoid many of the penalties and consequences as listed above.

Getting a Misdemeanor Case Under Control

A misdemeanor needs to be taken seriously. Fortunately, there are distinct provisions of law in Michigan designated to obtain a dismissal of a misdemeanor without going to trial. These provisions of law afford an individual a chance to get a criminal charge dropped after completing a period of probation and complying with the terms of probation. The following is a list of provisions used extensively in every Macomb County Court with links for expanded explanations:

  • HYTA: HYTA status enables youthful offenders (age 18 but under age 26) to get a criminal offense (felony or misdemeanor) dismissed and sealed.
  • Dismissal of Drug Crimes: First time drug offenses involving use or possession, but not delivery, can be dismissed pursuant to application of MCL 333.7411.
  • Domestic Violence: A domestic violence charge can be dismissed pursuant to MCL 769.4a.
  • Delayed sentence with dismissal: MCL 771.1 is a special provision of law that can be utilized to get a criminal case deferred and dismissed.

All of the above provisions of law are subject to eligibility and the judge’s approval. Getting a criminal conviction deferred and dismissed pursuant to MCL 771.1 requires the prosecutor’s approval and the approval of the court. Getting HYTA for offenders that are 21 but under age 26, also requires the prosecutor’s approval. The victim of any crime may also object to a favorable plea bargain.

Retail Fraud/Shoplifting Can be Dismissed in Macomb County

Retail fraud is the name given for the crime of shoplifting in Michigan and it is always one of the most prevalent crimes that we see in every courtroom in Macomb County. The offense of retail fraud is committed by taking something from a retail establishment with the intent to steal. The crime is accomplished by the intentional concealment of goods, changing a price tag/package or by attempting to defeat the scanning process. Retail fraud is a serious crime and constitutes a crime of moral turpitude that will result in deportation for those that do not have United States citizenship. The penalty for retail fraud depends upon the value of the goods:

  • Retail Fraud First Degree (value of goods $1,000.00 or more): Felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
  • Retail Fraud Second Degree (value of goods $200.00 up to $1,000.00): Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
  • Retail Fraud Third Degree (value of goods up to $200.00): Misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Virtually every major retailer (Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, Meijer, Sam’s Club) utilizes loss prevention employees to deter shoplifting and apprehend shoplifters. Once charged with this crime, an attorney’s services are crucial to find a way to avoid a conviction in the criminal justice system. First offenders almost always qualify for a plea bargain to get the matter deferred and dismissed. The terms of the probation can differ depending the court and whether the judge believes the offender needs to be supervised or non-supervised. Non US Citizens need to hire a lawyer to avoid a “theft” related conviction altogether to avoid deportation.

Avoiding Traffic Misdemeanors

Not all traffic offenses are created equal. Traffic offenses are classified as civil infractions or misdemeanors. Civil infractions, such as speeding, are considered less serious. Misdemeanor traffic offenses often carry greater points (6 in many cases), possible jail and appear on a person’s criminal record.  In Michigan, the following offenses are misdemeanors:

We look for ways to reduce the impact of a traffic misdemeanors by scheduling a pretrial conference with the prosecutor to seek meaningful reductions. This often can result in a misdemeanor being reduced to a civil infraction thereby saving a person from having a criminal record. In addition, getting a traffic misdemeanor reduced to a lower offense can also result in meaningful reduction in points and insurance premium savings. It is a wise investment to fight every traffic ticket!

Operating While Intoxicated 

As we have said, Operating while Intoxicated (OWI) is always one of the most prevalent crimes on every district court lineup. The Michigan Drunk Driving Audit is a website which compiles detailed statistics regarding drunk cases based upon  information obtained from police agencies and courts. In 2019, there were approximately 2,200 individuals tested for drugs or alcohol Macomb County.  The statistics are further broken with based upon blood alcohol content of (BAC). In 2018, approximately 600 individuals in Macomb County tested with an elevated BAC result of .17% or greater, constituting “Super Drunk Driving“.

There are many legal and technical aspects to a drunk driving case. Here are few frequently asked DUI questions:

  • Can the case be dismissed?
  • Can the charge be reduced?
  • Am I going to jail?
  • What will happen to my license?
  • Why did they destroy my license?
  • Was I required to give a blood test or take a breathalyzer test?
  • Can an attorney get the police in-car video and body-cam video? Continue reading ›

 

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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 & Centerline

Our publications explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm’s expertise. We have the distinction of practicing criminal law longer than most other Macomb County lawyers. This publication is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients charged with criminal matters, (misdemeanors and felonies), drug crimes, drunk driving and traffic tickets.

Locations of the 37th District Court 

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.

  • 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.

Dismissals of criminal cases in the 37th District Court!

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, drug and traffic cases. In my opinion, the 37th District Court is a court with a philosophy of rehabilitation, rather than a direct line to 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.  It is also a court that gets more drug cases than any other district court within Macomb County and the judges do not hesitate to set high bonds for those charged with minor drug crimes!  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 including the following:

  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • GPS monitoring (sex crimes, violent crimes)
  • A ‘no-contact order‘ (assault, domestic violence, retail fraud)

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, 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: 164 DUI cases in 2019

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 2019, Warren and Centerline administered a total of 164 breath and blood tests for individuals charged with drunk driving or drugged driving. Over 59 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. Plea bargains can mean getting a better deal without spending thousands of dollars on trial. However, there are many aspects of a drunk driving case that must be done according to administrative rules and going to trial is encouraged if the police screwed up and we have a chance of getting a not guilty verdict before a jury.

First Time Drunk 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.

Drug Crimes in the City of Warren

There are more drug crimes in the City of Warren that wind up in the 37th District Court than in any other court located in Macomb County. In my opinion, many factors contribute to the high number of drug crimes in the City of Warren including an aggressive police department and surveillance of drug activity coming from Detroit.  In fact, there are more crimes consistently reported in the City of Warren for larceny, retail fraud and assaults than in other Macomb County courts. In 2019, there were a total of 8,801 crimes reported in the City of Warren compared to 4,660 reported in the neighboring City of Sterling Heights. Both cities are approximately 36 square miles each.

More than ever, our clients are benefiting from aggressive legal representation to avoid felony convictions for drug crimes. In addition, the courts are more willing to utilize therapeutic rehabilitative measures, rather than punitive measures, as a means to sentence drug users.

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: Avoid Points & 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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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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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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