Having to go to Court for a shoplifting charge (also known as retail theft or retail fraud) does not make you a bad person. In fact, shoplifting is a frequently prosecuted offense by State and local prosecutors, but it is often only based upon an isolated incident due to a momentary lapse in otherwise good judgment. However, just because shoplifting accusations are frequently prosecuted in courtrooms across America, it does not mean that there are not serious consequences or that it will not affect your life in some type of negative manner, because any criminal record for retail theft can have many potential damaging repercussions. The repercussions of a shoplifting conviction may include: the loss of your freedom (incarceration); probation with inconvenient and difficult conditions (drug/alcohol testing, counseling, community service, etc.); loss of employment opportunities; professional licensing issues; loss of educational opportunities; steep fines and costs; immigration complications (for persons that are not United States citizens); embarrassment/damage to reputation/humiliation, etc. If you need to go to Court for a retail fraud charge, you need a top notch criminal shoplifting defense attorney who will fight to protect you and your way of life.
There are several different legal theories under which both State and local prosecutors can allege someone committed an act of shoplifting: the classic situation when store merchandise is actually stolen by a person or an attempt to steal store merchandise is made; when the price tag of the merchandise is intentionally misrepresented or changed; or when merchandise is fraudulently exchanged for money, store credit, or other store merchandise.
There are both felony and misdemeanor retail fraud offenses prosecuted for alleged shoplifting. In Michigan, shoplifting offenses include:
First Degree Retail Fraud is a felony charge that carries up to a 5 year maximum prison sentence that is prosecuted when the merchandise involved is $1,000 (one thousand dollars) or more, or if the merchandise involved is $200 (two hundred dollars) or more and the person has a prior theft conviction.
Organized Retail Theft is felony charge that carries up to a 5 year maximum prison sentence that is also subject to applicable habitual offender sentencing provisions. The offense occurs when the alleged intent of the Defendant is to commit retail fraud and to resell the stolen merchandise to another person or business - in essence the allegation is that the Defendant makes their living through shoplifting.
Second Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a 1 year maximum county jail sentence that is prosecuted when the merchandise involved is at least $200 (two hundred dollars) but less than $1000 (one thousand dollars), or if the merchandise involved is under $200 (two hundred dollars) and the person has a prior theft conviction.
Third Degree Retail Fraud is a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a 93 day maximum county jail sentence that is prosecuted under either State law or local ordinance, when the merchandise involved in the offense is less than $200 (two hundred dollars).
Removal of a Theft Detection Device is a misdemeanor charges that carries up to a 365 day maximum county jail sentence under State law.
Basically when it comes to shoplifting, there are several aggravating factors that impact the charge. The aggravating factors include the Defendant's prior record, the amount of the alleged shoplifting, and the Defendant's alleged intent. The charge can also be influenced if any sort of violence was involved (potentially turning the offense to an armed or unarmed robbery, depending upon the circumstances). If the Defendant was an employee of the store at the time of the offense, the accusation is usually embezzlement instead of shoplifting.
Hire a Well Respected Defense Lawyer that Specializes in the Defense of Shoplifting Accusations
Many retail establishments have implemented costly loss prevention related procedures with the goal of reducing shoplifting losses, reducing insurance costs, avoiding costly and/or contested litigation, and deterring overall store theft. It is not uncommon for a retail establishment to hire well trained asset protection personnel and use theft detection devices with up to date surveillance technology (high resolution video cameras, closed circuit television, sensors, etc.) to combat the costs and liabilities associated with retail theft. Even with the best and the most up to date loss prevention technology and intensive employee training, mistakes are still made and persons are still sometimes falsely arrested due to errors in judgment (false identification of a suspect, false interpretation of a situation, etc.), cultural issues (, and procedural errors (violation of rights, etc.) - all of which can potentially lead to obtaining an acquittal, dismissal, or negotiating for a great result by your lawyer.
The attorney that you retain will obtain all the available discovery materials to fully and properly defend the case for you, which can include the following: police report(s), loss prevention report(s), witness statement(s), in store video(s), police video(s), photograph(s), statement(s) the police and/or loss prevention claims that you made, etc. Ultimately, you can either fight your case at trial in front of a Judge or jury, or resolve the case through a plea or plea bargain (reaching a settlement of your retail fraud accusation without a trial may involve a plea bargain (an agreement with the prosecution to dismiss, expunge, or reduce the charge(s) against you) or a sentence agreement (an agreement with the Judge to impose a specific sentence, such as avoiding or limiting any confinement). It may take a lot of convincing by your lawyer to obtain a plea bargain or sentence agreement, because such resolutions are not always available. Your lawyer may recommend that you take proactive steps to influence how the prosecutor and/or Judge may look at your case (such as addressing a mental health issue, obtaining substance abuse treatment, attending shoplifters anonymous meetings, etc.). In some instance the legal representation that you receive may be the difference between a dismissal and a prison sentence - do not gamble with your future by electing to not have a lawyer or by having substandard legal representation.
Before your next Court date, make the wise decision to hire an experienced defense attorney to help you obtain the best possible result for your circumstances. Again, a shoplifting conviction will likely cause you problems well into the future, including making it extremely difficult to find a good job or establish a great career path, because many employers do not want to risk hiring someone convicted of stealing.
Attorney Daniel Hilf is an impassioned, zealous, and aggressive Michigan criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years of experience inside and outside of courtrooms helping clients obtain great results for shoplifting and other theft accusations. Choose a lawyer that has your best interest at heart to work on your behalf and contact Hilf & Hilf, PLC right away..