Retail Fraud – Michigan’s Crime of Shoplifting

Retail Fraud – it’s the Legislature’s way of saying “shoplifting.”  In Michigan, stealing (known legally as “larceny”) inside of a store or its immediate vicinity (like the garden area of a Loews or Home Depot) is its own crime — Retail Fraud.

Michigan’s Retail Fraud statute breaks down the crime into Retail Fraud – 1st degree (felony), Retail Fraud – 2nd degree (misdemeanor) and Retail Fraud – 3rd degree (also a misdemeanor).  As with many Michigan crimes, the 1st degree is a more serious offense than 2nd or 3rd.

Retail Fraud – 3rd Degree.  This is the criminal charge for stealing merchandise that is valued at $200 or less if you do any of the following:

  • take it out of the store without paying for it
  • try to get away with changing the sticker of the price for the purpose of paying less than what the item actually costs (here, it is the difference in value that must be under $200)
  • trying to get a refund or credit for an item you did not actually buy (picking up a receipt from outside and trying to get a refund on an item in the store you didn’t buy)

Retail Fraud – 2nd Degree.  This is the criminal charge for stealing merchandise that is valued between $200 and $1,000 if you do any of the following:

  • take it out of the store without paying for it
  • try to get away with changing the sticker of the price for the purpose of paying less than what the item actually costs (here, it is the difference in value that must be between $200 and $1,000)
  • trying to get a refund or credit for an item you did not actually buy if the refund or credit is between $200 and $1,000
  • or being charged with for the second time or more of Retail Fraud – 3rd Degree automatically increases the charge to Retail Fraud – 2nd Degree.

Retail Fraud – 1st Degree.  This felony charge is for merchandise over $1,000 if you do any of the following:

  • take it out of the store without paying for it
  • try to get away with changing the sticker of the price for the purpose of paying less than what the item actually costs (here, it is the difference in value that must be greater than $1,000)
  • trying to get a refund or credit for an item you did not actually buy if the refund or credit is greater than $1,000
  • or being charged for the second time or more of Retail Fraud – 2nd Degree automatically increases the charge to Retail Fraud – 1st Degree.

Because prior convictions matter to how you are charged with every subsequent crime, you should not assume a light charge just because the value of what you stole was not that great.  The felony charge carries a possible sentence of 5 years in prison and up to $10,000.  That’s a pretty serious penalty.  Anyone charged with this crime should consider hiring a competent criminal defense attorney to represent them in court.

Michigan Legislature Tackles Drunk Driving BAC Threshold

The Michigan Legislature is debating whether the blood alcohol content threshold necessary to prove that someone is driving under the influence of alcohol should remain at 0.08.  If no action is taken, the threshold will go up to 0.10 later this year for all drunk driving cases.

That debate is taking place in the House Criminal Justice Committee on House Bill 4093.  The bill is designed to keep the threshold at 0.08, at which point Michigan law automatically considers someone “operating while intoxicated,” regardless of how they perform in field sobriety tests.

This bill is expected to pass through both chambers of the Michigan Legislature.  A lot is on the line: 1) millions of dollars of federal funding could be lost if Michigan permitted its threshold to increase above 0.08 and 2) there are lots of advocacy groups putting pressure on the Legislature to keep the threshold at 0.08.

Murder Charges Against Lansing Man Continue After Preliminary Exam

The case against 19-year old Derrick Martin continues on to Ingham County Circuit Court for the murder of Schnee Hyon Sin of Swartz Creek.  54-A District Court Judge Frank Deluca bound Mr. Martin over to Circuit Court following a preliminary examination where the prosecution produced the testimony of several witnesses, including Mr. Martin’s cousin, Delvin Allen Scott Wilson.

A preliminary exam is a hearing held for the purpose of determining whether there is probable cause that a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause that the defendant committed the alleged crime.  From time to time charges can be dismissed at the conclusion of a preliminary exam because the prosecution has failed to show probable cause one on or more of the elements of a crime.  (This happened last week with a client I was representing in front of Judge Louis Alderson who was charged with fraudulent use of building contract funds after a contract between my client to perform repairs on a woman’s home was rescinded by the woman and my client declined to refund $3,000).  Defense attorneys have to skillfully navigate a number of questions: (1) what are the benefits of running the exam versus what are the risks involved in running the exam; (2) will running the exam result in evidence that would otherwise not be known until trial; (3) will running the exam diminish the prosecution’s willingness to offer favorable plea bargains.

In Mr. Martin’s case, the testimony of his cousin and two other men was enough move his case along to Circuit Court — where all felony trials are conducted in the Michigan state court system.  Even when some of the testimony appeared contradictory, the bar for a preliminary exam is not very high.  Mr. Martin continues to maintain his innocence and plans to try his case.

I-96 shooter is competent to stand trial

Raulie Casteel has been deemed competent to stand trial following a forensic competency examination.  The examination is what usually occurs after a criminal defendant attempts to assert the defense of incompetency.  The finding of competency is only valid for the charges he is facing in Livingston County.  He faces additional charges in Oakland and Ingham Counties, although the results of those exams are expected to be the same.

What this means is that his case proceeds in the usual fashion for criminal charges in Michigan.  The charges he faces in Livingston County include assault with intent to murder, terrorism charges, and gun charges.  The cases are being handled by the Office of the Attorney General at the request of Prosecuting Attorneys from the three counties mentioned above.

The next step in Mr. Casteel’s defense is preliminary examination, where District Court Judge Carol Sue Reader will determine if there is probable cause a crime has been committed, and probable cause that the Defendant committed those crimes.  It’s a fairly low standard for the prosecution to meet and there’s a good chance preliminary exam will be waived and Mr. Casteel will be “bound over” to the Circuit Courts for trial and/or guilty pleas.

Michigan residents will remember the month (it felt like years) of terror in late 2012 as passage on I-96 seemed treacherous due to mysterious and random shooting.  Fortunately, only one person was ever injured, with that victim receiving a gunshot wound to the buttocks.