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Troy Shoplifting Lawyer

Shoplifting is referred to in the Michigan Penal Code as retail fraud and can be handled in the court of law as a far more serious offense than some people might suspect. A shoplifting conviction could saddle you with a criminal record, loss of freedom, and difficulty getting a job.

Before admitting guilt or—if possible—even discussing the situation with a business operator, store loss prevention staff, or police, you may want to have a seasoned criminal attorney present to protect your legal rights. A Troy shoplifting lawyer could also help you avoid self-incrimination during any ensuing investigation.

Legal Definition of Shoplifting

In most cases, a person cannot legally be forced to talk to police or store security without legal counsel present. Likewise, someone who is accused of shoplifting has the right to be represented by a Troy shoplifting lawyer, and refusing to speak without one’s counsel should not be considered evidence of guilt.

A person acting as a customer or even a store employee can commit retail fraud in several circumstances beyond concealing or attempting to conceal items in the store. Other illegal activities categorized under this same title include:

  • Changing the price tag to reduce the price of an item
  • Returning stolen store property for store credit or cash
  • Using children to take items without intending to pay for them
  • Collaborating with a store employee to falsify inventory
  • Intimidating or colluding with a retail employee to allow a theft to happen

In 2013, Michigan adopted a law aimed at shoplifters which makes reselling stolen property online or elsewhere a first-degree felony offense. These relatively new harsh measures were created to combat retail theft losses that law-abiding citizens pay higher retail prices for, and they underscore the potential importance of assistance from a Troy shoplifting attorney when dealing with charges of retail fraud.

Degrees of Shoplifting

Depending on the value of the property taken, Michigan statutes may classify shoplifting crimes as first, second, or third-degree offenses. First-degree retail fraud is a felony charge which applies if the item or items taken are valued at $1,000 or more, or if the difference between price tags that have been switched equals that amount. A conviction can carry up to five years in state prison, a minimum fine of $1,000 or as much as three times the value of the property taken.

Second-degree retail fraud applies to shoplifting incidents in which the values of property taken or attempted to be switched for store credit or cash is between $200 and $999. Such an offense may incur up to one year in county jail and a fine of $2,000 or up to three times the value of property taken.

Third-degree retail fraud encompasses thefts in which the property involved is valued at less than $200. Upon conviction, a person may be sentenced to 93 days in county jail and a $500 fine, or as much as three times the value of the shoplifted property could be imposed.

Common Elements of Shoplifting Charge

It is generally the prosecutor’s goal in a shoplifting case to establish intent based on evidence and testimony in a shoplifting case. In most cases, they must show that the merchandise was moved—not necessarily out of the store—and that the alleged person entered the store intending to shoplift or decided to do so once in the store.

Defense strategies may help develop reasonable doubt that the accused party did not have intent to shoplift or that movement of the merchandise was inadvertent or accidental. Additionally, they may have grounds to argue that the store’s loss prevention officer profiled them without reasonable cause, or that the value of the merchandise was inflated.

Speaking with a Troy Shoplifting Attorney

While a shoplifting charge could be considered minor, they are typically treated as significant offenses. If you are charged with such an offense, you may benefit greatly from scheduling an appointment with a dedicated Troy shoplifting lawyer. Contacting legal counsel who could dispute allegations against you on your behalf may help you, in turn, avoid creating a criminal record or potentially facing significant penalties.