Stealing from a store is shoplifting, technically it’s retail fraud. Shoplifting is taking or attempting to take items from a retailer without paying, or switching or removing price tags to pay less than the sale price of the merchandise. Millions of dollars are lost annually to retail fraud, and as a result, many businesses hire store detectives to limit the theft of products.
The value of the items that were allegedly stolen will determine the extent of the charges. Depending on the situation, shoplifting or retail fraud charges can result in a misdemeanor, a petty theft charge with possible probation or a felony, a grand theft charge with a likely jail term. The accused, if convicted, may have to pay thousands of dollars in fines and end up with a criminal record.
The Michigan Penal Code covers the three degrees of retail fraud that a shoplifter could be charged with. First degree retail fraud charge includes:
- While the store is open to the public, the theft of items worth $1,000 or more
- While the store is open to the public, to transfer, alter, remove, replace, conceal or misrepresent the price of an item in any manner with intent to not pay or pay less than the actual sale price, when the difference is $1,000 or more
- Intent to defraud, obtain or attempt to obtain money or store property as a refund or exchange for unpaid merchandise that belongs to that establishment, if the amount of money or the price of property to be obtained is $1,000 or more
Second degree retail fraud includes the same stipulations, but instead of requiring the value to be over $1,000, for a shoplifting charge in the second degree, the resulting value needs to be between $200 and $1,000. For a retail fraud charge in the third degree, the value has to be under $200.
Contacting an attorney early on is the best course of action, a lawyer can contact the retailer and possibly resolve the issue before other parties get involved. An attorney can present a shoplifting charges defense directly to the potential plaintiff and avoid the waiting, fees and hassle that both parties will have to go through is the case gets into the court system. If the matter does get to court, a retail fraud defense presented by a competent attorney will be able to either lessen the charges or have the case dismissed altogether.
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