In Michigan, a retail fraud charge can mean several things: most commonly, these include theft or shoplifting, misrepresenting or altering prices or value of items in the store, and falsely attempting to exchange an item for money that was not purchased.

These charges have a spectrum of severity, mostly depending on the value of the merchandise but also factoring in past offenses and other incidents of retail fraud convictions.

A Class 3 charge is the least severe, including items up to $200, plus fines and possible jail time. Class 2 charges involve merchandise valued at $200-$1,000, and any fraud charges for items above $1,000 are Class 1, a felony.

Michigan’s charging enhancement system can attempt to increase your charges to a more severe penalty class if you have subsequent other retail fraud convictions.

However, many of the state’s diversion programs can help erase your first ever offense.

Taking the steps to reduce or drop your charges

It’s advisable to take advantage of the diversion program if you’re eligible. Each jurisdiction may have its own specific requirements, so your attorney should help you determine whether you qualify. For those under age 24, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is available in all Michigan courts for those who qualify.

Diversions allow you to remove the charges from your criminal record by admitting guilt and take the case out of the courts. In turn, this helps the courts reduce the number of backlogged cases in the docket.

If granted a diversion, you’ll complete a program prescribed by your jurisdiction, typically including a no contest or guilty plea. For this reason, you’ll want to consult a lawyer about whether this is the best possible route for you—in some cases, you may be able to strike a better outcome without pleading guilty.

Other options

Similarly, you can possibly utilize a plea bargain to help have your case dismissed, although this relies in large part on whether the prosecutor is willing to cooperate with that agreement.

A weak case, such as one with premises that violated your rights or was based on a misunderstanding or misstep, can be argued. Additionally, mental health and emotional disturbances, including having an addiction to shoplifting, can be tried in court as potential defenses.

However you and your attorney end up approaching your case, it’s important that you not make things worse before you begin the justice process. Remember that pleading the fifth amendment is an option for you, and make sure to respect a store’s ban on your entering the property. Working together with your attorney, you have a better chance of building a defense to your charges that best fits your needs.