by Melissa Cox
Retail Fraud, or "shoplifting," is a great concern for retailers and law enforcement agencies. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), retailers lose more than $35 million dollars of stolen merchandise each day. So, when you read the sign that says, "Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," you can bet on it!
If you have been arrested for retail fraud, the potential consequences vary greatly depending on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This decision is most heavily based on the value of the merchandise(s) involved in the transaction.
In the state of Michigan, there are three types of Retail Fraud:
• First Degree Retail Fraud - Felony. This occurs when the value of the merchandise involved is greater $1000.00, or if the accused has a prior conviction for First or Second Degree Retail Fraud.
o Maximum Penalties: 5 years prison time; $10,000.00 fine or 3 times the value of the merchandise.
• Second Degree Retail Fraud - Misdemeanor. This occurs when the value of the merchandise involved is between $200.00 and $1000.00, or if the accused has a prior conviction for Third Degree Retail Fraud.
o Maximum Penalties: 1 year jail time; $2,000.00 fine or 3 times the value of the merchandise.
• Third Degree Retail Fraud – Misdemeanor. This occurs when the value of the merchandise involved is under $200.00.
o Maximum Penalties: 93 days in jail; $500 fine or 3 times the value of the merchandise.
In addition to these criminal penalties, a person accused of retail fraud may also be subject to civil penalties which include payment of the full retail price of the unrecovered or unsalable merchandise and civil damages of ten times the retail price of the property (not less than $50.00 and not more than $200.00).
Typically, retail fraud consists of a person removing merchandise from a store. However, under Michigan law, other forms of retail fraud exist, such as altering/switching price tags; conspiring with a store employee to steal; and fraudulent return of merchandise.
The consequences are potentially severe for anyone charged with the crime. However, more than 20% of retail fraud is committed by teenagers, and convictions for retail fraud can have serious consequences for a young person’s future employment, college admissions, financial aid options and other financial opportunities. For example, a person with a felony retail fraud conviction cannot receive federally guaranteed student loans.
If you have been charged with retail fraud, you need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to represent you. For more information, please contact Mark Mandell at 248-380-0000, ext. 241 or Melissa Cox at 248-380-0000, ext. 240.