Shoplifting is a big issue in Michigan. Retailers ranging from the largest big box stores in the area to locally owned shops have to deal with product loss or shrink caused by customers taking products without paying for them.
Some shoplifting involved impulse crimes. Young people, in particular, might try to run out of the store with something in their arms that they didn’t pay for while in full view of other people. Others will shove items in their pockets or purses. There are also organized retail fraud groups that have some people distract staff in one area while another person removes items from a different department.
Whether you find yourself accused of taking items out of a shop without paying them or hiding them despite having never left the building, you may end up facing theft accusations. Will the accusations against you lead to misdemeanor or felony charges?
The value of the merchandise determines the charge
Michigan has a relatively detailed statute on shoplifting and other forms of theft. It is the total value of the items stolen that determines what charges someone faces. For an individual leaving the store with a movie or a bottle of prestige-brand shampoo in their jacket, the charges will likely be a misdemeanor offense.
However, for those who repeatedly take items from stores or who aim for expensive items like jewelry or designer sunglasses, felony charges could be possible. When the total value of the items stolen is $1,000 or more, the state can bring felony charges. The severity of the felony charges will increase with the value of the items stolen. Even misdemeanor shoplifting charges can lead to fines and incarceration, but felony charges could potentially haunt someone for life.
What looks like shoplifting may not have been
Shoplifting is such a common issue that some retail professionals and loss prevention specialists are overzealous in their effort to curtail retail fraud.
Managers or security professionals might stop someone before they ever even leave the business because they assume that how someone carried an item or stored it in their cart indicated they were going to steal from the business. There are also many scenarios in which someone simply forgets an item and then ends up facing charges despite being happy to pay for that item.
Reviewing the situation that led to your address can give you a better idea of the best criminal defense strategy if you find yourself facing shoplifting charges.