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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:

Since 2003, the State of Michigan collects Driver Responsibility Fees against driver’s when excessive points are abstracted on a person’s driving record (Category 1 Offenses). Fees are also collected for specific offenses, regardless of points (Category 2 Offenses). Drunk driving is an example of an offense categorized under Category 2.  For example, a person who is convicted for Operating While Intoxicated is required to pay $1,000.00 per year for 2 years for a total of $2,000.00. A conviction for the lower drinking and driving offense of “impaired driving” requires $500.00 per year for 2 years in fees.

These fees have been called a “death penalty for drivers” by State Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland). Haveman favors legislation which would phase out all driver responsibility fees and he has called the law a “cash grab” for the state at the expense of motorists, who can lose their license for non-payment.

Traffic tickets are handled in the district Courts. In the district courts where we appear frequently, including : 37th District (Warren/Centerline), 38th District (Eastpointe), 39th District (Roseville/Fraser), 40th District (St. Clair Shores), 41-A District (Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica), 41-B District (Clinton Township, Harrison Township, Mount Clemens), 42-1 District(Romeo/Washington Township), 42-2 District (New Baltimore/Chesterfield Township), 72nd District (Marine City/Port Huron Divisions), 44th District (Royal Oak), many individuals are driving without a license and without insurance. They just cannot afford all of costs associated with traffic tickets and Driver Responsibility Fees.

ferndale marijuana legalization.jpgAs of last week, Ferndale voted to join Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Ypsilanti, and Kalamazoo in restructuring their marijuana laws to allow for personal use in the homes of consenting adults. Ferndale, neighbor city of Royal Oak, Detroit, Hazel Park, and Pleasant Ridge, approved an ordinance that will permit personal marijuana use. Similar measures were passed in Lansing and Jackson. The ordinance was passed by nearly 70%. This may indicate possible future widespread acceptance of marijuana by the electorate as a whole. Lansing’s Mayor stated that “the public is far ahead of most politicians on this issue, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for medical marijuana when it was on the statewide ballot several years ago, as well as decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana in cities like Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids.” This may be a bellwether of things to come as Mayor Bernero went on to say “My personal view is that marijuana prohibition has been a complete failure that has mainly succeeded in filling up our prisons with minor drug offenders at an extremely high cost to the taxpayers of this state. Our police officers and courts have more important things to do than pursue and prosecute these violations.”

So what exactly did Ferndale’s voters approve? The language on the ballot was as follows;

“Amend city code to allow anyone 21 or older to use, possess or transfer less than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property?”


Under Michigan Law, if you are convicted of 2 or more drinking and driving offenses within 7 years (or 3 within 10) your license is revoked indefinitely. A revocation, unlike a suspension, will not automatically expire or terminate. There is a mandatory one-year waiting period before the suspension can be reviewed. Moreover, if the first appeal is successful there is an additional one-year monitoring period where you must install a “blow ‘n go” device in your automobile. Any serious violations of the device will result in another license revocation. Therefore, when convicted of a second DUI in most circumstances you are looking at a MINIMUM of two years before you have a full license again. A DUI 2nd, for this reason, is a dramatic and life changing event. You’re put in a position where you are slapped with fines, fees, costs and court requirements yet have no way to drive to make a living or attend probation obligations. However, the State of Michigan has recently enacted a sobriety court program that allows individuals who would otherwise lose their license to sidestep the mandatory one-year waiting period. Our office believes this is an outstanding program as it helps to promote lasting sobriety through its license incentive.

What is Sobriety Court?

Sobriety court is a highly structured term of probation, which places its emphasis on encouraging sobriety. Normally this will involve graduated phases and mandatory AA attendance. With the new sobriety court legislation, offenders with a DUI that would normally lose their license are eligible for a restricted license before waiting the mandatory one-year period. However, if participants of sobriety court violate the terms, they are most likely looking at jail time.

How does Sobriety Court Work?

When a candidate is eligible and the sobriety court program has openings they will be screened prior to acceptance. This is normally done after the pretrial/acceptance of plea but prior to sentencing. Candidates must show a willingness to accept the terms of the program and be serious about their sobriety before they’re allowed to enter the sobriety court program. After starting the program, participants have their license revoked for 45 days. After the 45 days you must install a BAIID (also known as an “interlock ignition” or “blow n’ go” as stated above). The breathalyzer device has to remain on your car for a minimum of 320 days after the suspension. During this period driving is restricted for purposes of school, employment and court obligations. When you fulfill the mandatory revocation period by the state (often one-year) AND complete your sobriety court program, you will be eligible to petition the State for a full license. However, failure while attending the sobriety court program will not only result in a revocation of your driver’s license, but may also include time in jail.

Where is Sobriety Court Available?

Our Firm has assisted clients getting admitted to Sobriety Court in the following jurisdictions;
Warren District Court
Roseville District Court
Clinton Twp. District Court
Royal Oak District

Nonetheless, because this is a new program many districts are just now implementing it. We can advise you if the court for the city/township in which you’ve been charged offers a sobriety court program.

Can Sobriety Court be Transferred if My District Doesn’t Offer It?

YES. We have been able to assist clients with the transfer of their probation, from the original court to one that offers this program.
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In the second part of our “Offenses on Campus” series (see Part 1 about MIPs) we will briefly discuss two prevalent offenses that occur in East Lansing, disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana. With Welcome Week starting the town is seeing a large influx of visitors as families are moving their children in and friends are visiting students. Especially early on in the year there tends to be a spike in parties and with parties students, residents, and visitors often find themselves on the wrong end of the law.

Disorderly Conduct

A wide array of behavior will fit Michigan’s law for a disorderly person. Most relevantly, disorderly conduct may be charged where;

– a person who is intoxicated in a public place and who is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance;
– a person who is engaged in indecent or obscene conduct in a public place;
– and/or a person who is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place.

This crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in prison and/or a fine of $500.00. For whatever reason, there is the often the notion that a disorderly conduct is only a civil infraction or is of the same consequence as a parking ticket. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. As discussed in our previous post, having misdemeanors your record can haunt you for years to come. Employers, graduate school admission boards, and professional licensing bureaus are all concerned with applicants’ criminal records.

A disorderly conduct charge is very manageable. Our firm always fights to preserve our client’s record, reduce any terms of probation, and avoid jail time. First time offenders may be eligible for either MCL 771.1 or HYTA– provisions of law which will keep the conviction off their record.

Possession of Marijuana

Marijuana is a prevalent substance on many college campuses. Widespread social acceptance, however, doesn’t change the fact that in most circumstances possession of marijuana is still a crime. In Michigan, first time offenders can face up to a year in jail for possessing marijuana. Nonetheless, these cases are manageable. For youthful offenders or first time offenders our office can typically secure an arrangement whereby the charges will not show up on the client’s record. The provisions of law this may be achieved by are HYTA and what is commonly referred to as a 7411. Further, there are sometimes medical marijuana defenses available in these cases. As stated above, having a drug crime on your record can be difficult to explain when applying for a job or a seat in graduate school.
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