Articles Tagged with retail fraud clinton township

 

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Crime Classifications/Misdemeanor or Felony

In Michigan, crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. 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. Felony representation link.

There are hundreds of offenses that are classified as misdemeanors in Michigan. In our experience, the following are the most prevalent misdemeanor crimes that you will find on the dockets of Metro Detroit (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb) district courts:

Each of the above offenses constitutes a crime. 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. Retail fraud and larceny crimes are also extremely common criminal offenses. 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:

Macomb 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:

District-Courts-Macomb-Map

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

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: Cases accepted pursuant to HYTA status enable youthful offenders (age 17 but under age 24) 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 upon use of MCL 769.4a in appropriate circumstances.
  • Deferral of Case or Delaying Sentence: MCL 771.1 is a special provision of law that can be utilized to get a criminal case under control by deferring the matter (for a later dismissal or reduction in the charge) or delaying the sentence (for leniency).

Although the above provisions are widely used and have enormous benefits, they are not without consequences. Once in the system for a criminal offense, a court file and police record are generated. Even if a case is later dismissed under a special provision of law, there can be a record floating around that should have been suppressed or sealed. In addition, there are always certain government and police agencies, along with other sensitive institutions, that are able to see every entry of a person’s record, even for matters that are dismissed under a special provision of law.  An experienced criminal defense lawyer can look for ways to strategically handle a criminal matter to get the most favorable resolution to avoid a trail of negative entries on a person’s record.

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:

  • Reckless Driving
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident
  • Driving While License Suspended

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.

Operating While Intoxicated 

As we have said, Operating while Intoxicated (OWI) is always one of the most prevalent crimes on every district court docket. Like most people, you have probably not heard of the Michigan Drunk Driving Audit. 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 2018, there were approximately 2,200 individuals tested for drugs or alcohol and most resulting a criminal charge of operating while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The statistics are further broken with details as to the number of individuals with a blood alcohol content of (BAC) of .17% or greater. In 2018, approximately 750 individuals in Macomb County that provided a test result were positive for alcohol at .17% or greater, constituting “Super Drunk Driving“.

There are many legal and technical aspects to a drunk driving case. At the very least, you probably have the following questions if you are facing a drunk driving offense:

  • 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 ›

shoplifter

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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