Expert Michigan Retail Fraud and Theft Offenses Attorneys
Retail fraud, commonly referred to as shoplifting, is a serious crime in Michigan. Shoplifting is the stealing of property from a store during regular business hours. An accusation of retail fraud, shoplifting or theft is very serious and potentially very embarrassing. Stealing from another is puts into question a person’s honesty and integrity, which are very important principles to maintain. Further, allegations of theft, retail fraud or other crimes of dishonesty can be easily mischaracterized, or misjudged. Therefore it is very important that charges of theft and retail fraud are properly handled and litigated in court to ensure the best results.
There are several types and actions that can be considered retail fraud:
- Concealing or taking property from a store offered for sale without paying for it
- Assisting another in taking property offered for sale with the intent not to pay for it
- Engaging in acts to take property for less money than was offered for sale. Includes activities like switching price tags.
- Utilizing employees to assist in taking property offered for sale with the intent to keep it without paying full price
- Fraudulently using gift cards, fictitious refunds or store credit
Other types of theft crimes include:
- Larceny in a building
- Larceny in value over $1,000
- Larceny in value under $1,000
- Larceny in value over $20,000
Reasons why people engage in shoplifting or retail fraud:
Lack of Impulse Control – some people cannot resist the impulse or urge to take something from a store. They may have gotten away with it before and feel that the store can afford the loss or will never miss it. The items taken are usually not a necessity for life like food or necessary clothing. The fact that something can be taken from a store provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of “getting away with something”.
Peer Pressure – young people often engage in theft and fraudulent activities and succumb to the very real pressure that others can place on their peers and acquaintances. These actions are often intended to be one-time occurrences and otherwise isolated incidents.
Financial Distress – others may take property due to an overwhelming financial need to provide heath, wellness, shelter, or clothing that they cannot otherwise afford. This is common with students, homeless and those that are used to a certain lifestyle that they can no longer afford. Recent life changes involving financial circumstances can have an effect.
Marital Difficulties and Divorce – family dissolution can result in personality changes that would cause people engage in behavior that they normally would not. Fully understanding family circumstances are important to ensure that the behavior can be explained and sometimes justified.
Mental Health Disorders –Some people suffer from mental heath disorders, sometimes called Kleptomania, which can cause delinquent behavior such as theft. Some are not even aware of the existence of the disorder or have failed to seek recommended counseling services.
Substance Abuse Disorders – drug and alcohol abuse sometimes is the cause of the theft and fraud behavior. It is very important that this be discovered and addressed appropriately and effectively.
The cause and reason for the criminal behavior must be ascertained, diagnosed and rectified as best as possible in order to successfully address the matter with the court. By providing a rational and recommendation for the proper course of action and treatment to ensure the behavior is not repeated. Our office will help minimize any punishment that may be imposed.
We understand that it is of the upmost importance to keep any retail fraud or theft offense off your criminal record. A theft related conviction leaves a reputation of dishonesty that can discourage employers and educational institutions from associating with you. A retail fraud or theft conviction could change the course of your life. It is important not to let a one-time mistake invalidate years of hard work and preclude legitimate aspirations in the future.
There are several legal strategies to keep a retail fraud conviction off your record.
Youthful Offender Status – those under the age of 24 can and should be provided an opportunity to have the case immediately made non-public and eventually dismissed after satisfactorily completion of a short probationary period. The applicable age was increased to age 24 in Michigan effective August 15, 2015. For those accused between the ages of 21 and 24 if the case occurred before that date, we can and must delay the prosecution until after that date to ensure all who qualify will take advantage of the new law change.
First Offender Programs – many jurisdictions and prosecutorial offices will allow a first offender, no matter the age, to engage in programing to keep the offense off their record. Do not assume that this offer will automatically be made because it will not. An expert attorney from the Law Office of Barton Morris will not only ensure all available programs, but ensure the client is prepared to be eligible to receive said programs. Many require the client to receive certain treatment or previously be engaged with a particular therapy requirement. Every court and jurisdiction is different in this regard. The expert attorneys from the Law Office of Barton Morris know exactly what needs to be done to ensure successful acceptance and completion of every known first offender program.
Often times, those that may not qualify can still be accepted into a first offender program. The expert retail fraud attorneys in the Law Office of Barton Morris will make sure that every effort is taken to make all qualifying programs available to our clients, even if at first glance, it may seem unavailable. The opportunity to keep someone’s record clean must sometimes be fought hard for. Often times, a favorable result must be achieved no matter the cost and “no” is not an acceptable answer. The attorneys at the Law Office of Barton Morris will be fight relentlessly for every client.
How to Fight a Retail Fraud Case in Court
Many times, trial and pre-trial litigation is necessary. We do not simply accept the first offer the prosecutor makes as it is usually not the best one. Sometimes a litigation battle is necessary. Common trial or pre-trial defenses include:
- Exposing the Loss prevention officers (LPO) as not being properly trained
- Unfair or prejudicial targeting by LPO’s
- Unlawful arrest or detainment by LPO’s
- Lack of intent to permanently deprive or lawful mistake
- Proper investigation including dissecting LPO reports and obtaining and reviewing video evidence.
Reasons to hire a theft and retail fraud specialist attorney – Do not get a Public Defender
- It is important to hire an attorney who knows the jurisdiction, prosecutor, preferences, position, tolerances, and when the city attorney will entertain exceptional circumstances which can lead to out of the ordinary and favorable results.
- It is important to know the judge and his past treatment of similarly situated defendants.
- It is important to be able to adequately explain and advocate all of the client’s relevant circumstances that can have an effect on the outcome. A specialist attorney will spend as much time as possible to know every relevant and important detail about the client, including his/her education, family, financial circumstance, physical and mental health, professional and personal goals and aspirations.
- It is important to hire a dedicated attorney who knows special and alternative options which are available and helpful to your case. It is important that each client is characterized individually. Each defendant should not be all be treated the same.
- Whether an accused is a first-time or repeat offender, this case can be the most significant event in their life. It is critically important that you obtain the best result possible as it could and will have an effect on the rest of your life. Do not trust a court appointed attorney to provide any specialized or individualized assistance. A court appointed attorney will only do what the prosecution wants. They simply do not take the time to fully investigate the whole case. They will not look at videos or LPO reports. They will spend as little time as necessary to finish your case as they have several more to finish. Those with a court appointed attorney will have no one to call for advice, counseling, questions, or assistance. A retail fraud or theft case and its outcome is entirely too important to trust a public defender. As good intentioned as they may be, they simply do not have the time and qualifications to do what ever is necessary to obtain the best result. You may spend three minutes with a lawyer who literally holds your life and future in his hands.
Legal Fees and Costs
The cost for a specialist retail fraud attorney can be as little as $1,500.00. Qualified individuals can be placed on a reasonable payment plan. There is no reason not to request a free consultation to discuss the details of your case, your options, expectations, and fees.
Why are we Retail Fraud and Theft Lawyer Specialists?
Most criminal defense attorneys do not specialize in retail fraud and theft offenses. Our attorneys do. We realize the special needs that are specific to these types of offenses and understand that by knowing the specific issues unique to these types of cases we can and do obtain amazing results for our clients. These issues include:
- The psychology and motivations of Loss Prevention Officers
- Typical video surveillance equipment used by major retailers and smaller stores
- The psychology and human assessment of theft and fraud behaviors along with identification of cues, symptoms and affects.
- The psychology of prosecutors and judges on theft cases, including an understanding and previous experience in area courts with high volumes of retail fraud like Troy, Novi, Sterling Heights, Grand Rapids and Macomb Township.
- Alternative sentencing options, and therapeutic options available
We have existing relationships with area treatment and therapist providers to ensure our clients have a full range of options to cater to any geographical and financial circumstances.
Judges and prosecutors know that when the retail fraud specialist attorneys from the Law Office of Barton Morris are representing a client, that client will be properly diagnosed, their relevant circumstances evaluated and an appropriate plan for resolution will be presented without the need for incarceration, overly burdensome penalties or unnecessary services, treatments or probationary terms.
Our expert retail fraud lawyers travel all over the State of Michigan to defend these charges. No matter where in Michigan our lawyers will ensure that the best results are obtained in retail fraud and theft related offenses.
Three Degrees of Retail Fraud
There are 3 degrees of retail fraud and the punishments vary depending on whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.
First degree retail fraud is a 5-year felony and carries a fine of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. There is also a maximum 5-year probation term. A person can be charged with first degree retail fraud if, while the store is open to the public, the person changes, transfers, or otherwise misrepresents the price at which property is offered for sale with the intent to pay less if the resulting difference is $1,000 or more; stealing property that is offered for sale at a price of $1,000 or more; or obtains or attempts to obtain a fraudulent refund or exchange of property that is $1,000. A person can also be charged with first degree retail fraud if they steal property that is valued between $200 and $1,000 and they have a prior retail fraud or attempted retail fraud conviction on their record.
Second degree retail fraud is a misdemeanor that has a possible 1 year jail term plus fines and costs. There is also a maximum 2-year probation term. A person can be charged with second degree retail fraud if the theft of property is between $200 and $1,000, or if the theft is under $200 but the person has a prior theft related conviction on their record.
Third degree retail fraud is a misdemeanor that carries a possible 93 day jail term plus fines and costs. There is also a maximum 2-year probation term. A person can be charged with third degree retail fraud if the theft of property is valued below $200. This often occurs with the stealing of small items from stores such as Meijer, Target, Kmart, or CVS.