Failing to pay in a store could cost more than you realize

| Dec 14, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

If you have lost your source of income or are just struggling financially, the temptation to shoplift a few essential items for your family can seem pretty tempting.  Yet being caught could lead to jail time, which will make your situation even more challenging.

A survey by The Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration found that around 60% of people in Michigan jails were there for misdemeanors such as shoplifting. So it is not a crime to take lightly. If you cannot afford to buy food, you will struggle to pay bail or legal fees, making it more likely you end up behind bars. The survey found that half of all the people locked up in the state had not been convicted or pleaded guilty to the crime that put them there. They were there because they could not afford to defend themselves or fund their bail.

When you hear about shoplifting, you may think the term only applies if you take something out of the store without paying for it. Yet in Michigan, the definition is broader. The crime is called “retail fraud” under state law and covers two other things besides straight out stealing of goods:

  • If you “return” an item you did not pay for, to get a replacement or refund.
  • If you swap or conceal the price labels on an item, pay less than you should.

If accused of retail fraud in Michigan, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Remember, anything you say could be used in evidence against you. If you invent a story to explain your actions to the store staff or police officers, it could work against you later in court.