Most of us have heard of shoplifting. However, shoplifting is just one of several charges that fall under Michigan’s “retail fraud” umbrella. Today, we cover important considerations about this charge and its potential consequences.

How does Michigan define retail fraud?

Retail fraud usually involves actual or attempted theft or fraud from a retail store. Such acts include:

  • Switching, concealing or altering price tags
  • Trying to get a refund or exchange for items not purchased at that store
  • Stealing property from a retail store

Depending on the value of the merchandise, retail fraud is charged in three different degrees.

First, second, and third-degree retail fraud

An act of theft or fraud involving merchandise worth less than $200 will likely be charged as third-degree retail theft. This is what many of us would consider “shoplifting,” and is punishable by fines and up to three months in jail.

Second degree retail fraud involves merchandise worth between $200 and $1000 or changing a price tag by between $200 and $1,000. A conviction can lead to up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Finally, first degree retail fraud covers theft of items with a total value exceeding $1,000. Possible punishments include up to five years in jail and $5,000 in fines.

It is important to remember that each of these charges can be enhanced with subsequent offenses. These enhancements can be complicated and difficult to understand without adequate legal representation.

Far-reaching consequences

Even a third-degree retail fraud charge can have far-reaching consequences. Many employers take this type of charge seriously when it shows up on a background check. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help someone facing these charges to mitigate the damage and protect their rights.

Prosecutors have vast discretion in determining how a violation will be charged. It is paramount that anyone facing a charge of retail fraud obtain experienced counsel who can advise on the best course when faced with these charges and work with the prosecutor to obtain the best available outcome.