Articles Tagged with retail fraud macomb county lawyer

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

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

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

We have practiced criminal law extensively in the 41B District Court longer than most law firms in Macomb County. I can say that in my nearly 40 years of practicing in this district, it is a court where the judges will not pass judgment on anyway and will give offenders a second chance as I will explain in this publication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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