Retail Fraud, First Degree


If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.

The following is a series of posts on various types of criminal charges. This series of posts will start with what are commonly known as “theft offenses.”

Loss and theft prevention is a big issue for retailers. Stores, especially larger chains, often have advanced surveillance, loss-prevention employees, and train their staff in techniques designed to deter or minimize losses from theft. However, even with all of these measures, theft offenses still cost larger retailers millions of dollars in losses and these cases still comprise a significant portion of a local court’s misdemeanor docket.
“Retail Fraud, First Degree”, MCL 750.356 (3) & MCL 750.356c, a felony charge, is the most severe offense out of the “retail fraud charges,” and carries significantly more sanctions for conviction than retail fraud second or third degree, MCL 750.356 (4) & (5) and MCL 750.356d. It is often charged against people who allegedly “shop-lift” merchandise from merchants and retailers when the value of the allegedly stolen merchandise has a value over $1,000.00.

If the accused individual already has a prior conviction for retail fraud second degree, MCL 750.356 (4); MCL 750.356d, they may be charged with retail fraud first degree even if the value is between $200.00 and $1000.00 pursuant to MCL 750.356c (2).

The maximum possible penalties for a conviction may include “imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.” MCL 750.356c (2). Further, since it is a felony charge, a convicted individual could also face up to five years of probation as well or other sanctions at the court’s discretion.

In general terms, retail fraud first-degree is the most severe of the “retail fraud” charges. It is also considered a “crime against dishonesty.” As with any theft offense, and as with any felony, there are collateral consequences that go well beyond the courts if a person is convicted of this charge.

As noted in the Michigan Rules of Evidence, convictions involving a “crime against dishonesty” may be used against someone by an opposing lawyer if they ever testify in another court-proceeding to attack their credibility.

A conviction for this type of charge, for example, may also impact a person’s ability to find work in certain fields. A lot of employers, especially those professions involving the financial industry, may be deeply concerned about an applicant or employee if they have this type of conviction on their record.

Since it is felony charge, a felony conviction would impact a person in ways beyond what is listed here. For a list of the additional potential sanctions, please visit the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and their website, which has an informative article on the lost privileges of convicted felons.

If convicted, as a felony, it could stay on a person’s record for a long period of time.

However, certain people, especially younger alleged offenders between the ages of 17-20 who are interested in potentially pleading guilty may be eligible for diversionary programs such the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (see MCL 762.11-762.16), which, if completed, could keep a conviction from being entered in their public record. Diversionary programs often require probation and generally need to be negotiated through the plea-bargaining process prior to any trials.

If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, we encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Our office frequently handles this types of matters. For a free initial consultation, please contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on the Michigan charge, “Uttering & Publishing,” click here.

For information on Michigan’s embezzlement charge, click here.

For information on the less severe, misdemeanor charge called, under Michigan law, Retail Fraud, Second Degree, click here.
For information on the less severe, misdemeanor charge called, under Michigan law, Retail Fraud, Third Degree, click here.