In Michigan, shoplifting is known as retail theft, and it is considered a very serious offense. Shoplifting is defined as illegally taking property from a retail store and failing to pay for it. The penalties for shoplifting vary on a case by case basis, because they will depend on the value of the items stolen. Although facing shoplifting charges is scary, it is important that anyone charged understands there are defenses to these charges, and a Michigan criminal defense lawyer will know how to use them.
Michigan categorizes retail fraud into three different categories. First-degree retail fraud is considered the most serious, with a possible penalty of a maximum of five years in state prison. This charge applies to cases in which the property in question exceeds $1,000, or if the accused has a prior conviction for retail fraud. First-degree retail fraud is also the only type of retail fraud offense that is considered a felony.
Second degree retail fraud is considered a misdemeanor with potential penalties of up to one year in jail, and a maximum $2,000 fine or three times the amount of the property stolen. The charge of third-degree retail fraud is only applicable in cases in which the accused does not have a prior shoplifting conviction. The penalties associated with third-degree retail fraud include up to 93 days in jail and a minimum fine of $500 or three times the amount of the stolen goods.
Although the situation may seem hopeless when you are facing shoplifting charges, the case is likely not as dire as it first seems. It is true that the penalties for shoplifting in Michigan are harsh, but there are also defenses to the charges.
First and foremost, it is important that you do not run away from store security or staff members if they accuse you of shoplifting. This will only make you appear more guilty in court. Additionally, if the retailer requests that you pay for the goods, it is imperative that you do so as soon as possible. This will help secure a positive outcome in court.
Due to the fact that retail fraud charges are divided into categories, a defense lawyer may start your case by trying to get your charges reduced. They may argue that the value of the property allegedly taken is not as much as the prosecution is claiming. This can help get your charges reduced, which may mean that you will face penalties that are not as severe.
A defense lawyer may also ask the court to place you in a diversion program rather than face criminal consequences. A diversion program will allow you to avoid a criminal conviction under the condition that you meet the requirements of the program. Diversion programs are typically only available for first offenders facing the least severe charges.
Of course, if you did not take any property and the retailer mistakenly identified you, a defense lawyer will know how to prove the mistaken identity and help you beat the charges.
If you or your child has been accused of shoplifting, you do not have to go it alone. At Van Den Heuvel Law Office, our Michigan criminal defense lawyers are here to help. We can help prove your innocence and, if it was just one mistake made, we will help ensure it does not follow you for the rest of your life. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.
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