January 19, 2023

How serious are shoplifting charges in Michigan?

Often seen as a youthful rite of passage, shoplifting seems like a minor offense. However, if the allegedly stolen items are costly, it can lead to felony charges.

If law enforcement arrests you for any form of theft, you need to defend yourself. This is so even if the arrest only centers on shoplifting.

Retail fraud in Michigan

Some states use terms like petty theft or retail fraud instead of shoplifting. You should know this because you may hear the term retail fraud instead of shoplifting throughout your case.

To be charged as a felony, retail fraud must involve items valued at no less than $1,000. Those with prior theft convictions may face felony charges even if the value of the items is only $200 or less.

More than stealing

Of course, you can face charges if you remove unpaid items from a commercial retail establishment, but retail fraud may involve other actions, such as:

  • Altering a price
  • Removing a price tag
  • Altering a price marking
  • Switching a price with a lower-cost item

You may also be charged with retail fraud if you attempt to return or exchange items you did not purchase.

Harsh consequences

For a first-degree retail fraud conviction—a felony—defendants face the possibility of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of $10,000 or three times the value of the involved goods, whichever is greater. Misdemeanor convictions can also result in jail time and an order to pay substantial fines.

To create a defense against retail theft, you need accurate information about state laws and potentially effective defense options. A legal professional can help you develop a winning strategy.