Lansing Theft Lawyer

The pandemic hit a lot of Americans hard in the last few years — and people in Michigan in particular. A lot of people were out of work for long periods of time, and many still haven’t recovered financially. Even though jobs are coming back, many people find themselves working part-time or in jobs that pay less than what they once earned. Long periods of financial instability and stress may lead otherwise good people to make questionable choices out of desperation. Sometimes that may involve the choice to steal, whether it’s shoplifting a few items from a grocery store, or taking some cash from the register at your job. That, in turn, may result in being charged with theft and needing help from a skilled Lansing theft lawyer.

Michigan theft charges can be very serious depending on the amount of the money or value of the items stolen, or whether you have prior theft convictions. The bigger the theft and the more convictions on your record, the harsher the penalties for a conviction.

Potential consequences of a theft conviction may include:

  • A jail or prison sentence
  • Thousands of dollars in fines
  • A permanent criminal record that affects your ability to get a job or rent an apartment
  • Possible denial or suspension of a professional license, such as one to practice law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, or teaching
  • Possible denial or revocation of your immigration visa or green card, and deportation to your home country

However, a theft charge doesn’t have to ruin your life when you have an experienced Lansing theft lawyer on your side. An attorney can review all the facts and evidence unique to your case, find the holes in the prosecutor’s arguments, and work to get your case dismissed or your penalties reduced.

Contact DeBruin Law PLLC at (517) 324-4303 and speak with Michigan criminal defense attorney Tiffany DeBruin about your case and how she can help.

How Theft Charges Work in Michigan

Most theft charges in Michigan fall into two categories: larceny and retail theft, otherwise known as shoplifting. However, thefts also may be charged with embezzlement, burglary, or robbery, depending on the circumstances.

Penalties also may vary depending on what a judge decides. The consequences listed on this page are detailed in Michigan statutes. However, the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that judges should have the discretion to decide sentences and are not bound by the state Legislature. A knowledgeable Lansing theft lawyer can explain the possible outcomes you can expect from your charge.

Larceny

Most theft offenses in Michigan fall under the general Larceny statute, Section 750.356 of the Michigan Penal Code. At its most basic, larceny is stealing something that belongs to someone else. That might include money or goods, but also might include items such as bank notes, financial documents, deeds or receipts.

There also are several larceny statutes that define specific forms of larceny and their consequences, such as theft of motor vehicles, livestock, or firearms, or theft at a fire or from a vacant dwelling or a workplace. Some forms of larceny defined by statute may have their own penalties. An experienced Michigan theft attorney can explain what you may face under the circumstances of your larceny charge.

In general, larceny can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the dollar value of the item or items taken, and the penalties under Section 750.356 break down like this:

  • Less than $200 — This is a misdemeanor offense punishable with a possible sentence of up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of up to $500 or three times the value of the property taken, whichever is greater. Penalties increase with a second or subsequent larceny conviction.
  • $200 to $1,000 — This is a misdemeanor offense punishable with a possible sentence of up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the stolen property. A second or subsequent conviction for theft in this dollar range is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
  • $1,000 to $20,000 — This is a felony offense punishable by a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the stolen property. Penalties increase with a third or subsequent conviction of any theft greater than $200.
  • $20,000 or more — This is a felony offense punishable by a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $15,000 or three times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

Retail Fraud

If you were arrested for shoplifting, you may be charged with retail fraud. Retail fraud includes not only stealing items, but also actions such as switching price tags or putting one item in another item’s box or packaging so that you end up paying less than the price marked, or stealing an item and then attempting to return it for cash or other items.

As with larceny charges, the degree of seriousness and the penalties increase with the dollar value of the stolen property. However, the dollar value isn’t necessarily based on a single theft. Michigan’s retail fraud statutes allow the dollar value to be aggregated over 12 months when there is a pattern of thefts, so multiple small thefts could add up to a felony charge.

  • Third Degree — Under section 750.356d of the Michigan Penal Code, shoplifting that amounts to less than $200 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of up to $500 or three times the value of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • Second Degree — Under section 750.356d of the Michigan Penal Code, shoplifting that amounts to $200 to $1,000 in value is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the theft, whichever is greater. You also may be charged with second degree retail fraud when you have one or more prior convictions for thefts of less than $200.
  • First Degree — Under Section 750.356c of the Michigan Penal Code, shoplifting that amounts to $1,000 or more is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the theft, whichever is greater. You also may be charged with first degree retail theft when you have one or more prior larceny or retail fraud convictions in the amount of $200 or more.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the act of taking money or property from your employer, or a person, company, or governmental agency for whom you are the agent, and with the intention of converting the money or property for your own use. Most people think of embezzlement as actions such as diverting money from accounts when you do the books or using company credit cards to pay for a personal vacation, but embezzlement also covers actions like stealing office supplies for your own use.

The degree and the penalties for embezzlement increase based on the dollar value, and like other forms of theft, when a prosecutor is considering charges against you, multiple offenses over 12 months can be aggregated to determine the total value. So, if you were alleged to have stolen $1,000 worth of office supplies every month for a year, the value of the theft would be $12,000, and you could be charged with a felony.

Under Section 750.174 of the Michigan Penal Code, the penalties for embezzlement may include:

  • Less than $200 — This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater. Upon a second or subsequent conviction, or if the theft was from a nonprofit or charitable organization, the penalty may include up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • $200 to $1,000 — This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater. Upon a second or subsequent conviction, or if the theft was from a nonprofit or charitable organization, the offense is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • $1,000 to $20,000 — This is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater. Upon a third or subsequent conviction, or if the theft was from a nonprofit or charitable organization, the penalty may include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • $20,000 to $50,000 — This is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • $50,000 to $100,000 — This is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.
  • $100,000 or more — This is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater.

Burglary

The crime most people think of as burglary is charged in Michigan under the state’s Breaking and Entering statutes. There are several different ways you might be charged, and an experienced Lansing theft lawyer can explain the differences between various statutes and how your case fits into that framework. In general, breaking and entering means to break into a building, structure, boat, shipping container, or railroad car, and to enter it with the intent to commit a felony or a theft. The basic offense of breaking and entering is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Section 750.110 of the Michigan Penal Code.

Robbery

At common law, robbery is the act of committing a theft using force or violence, or the threat of force or violence, such as walking into a convenience store with a gun and demanding that the clerk give you all the money in the cash register. In Michigan, robbery offenses fall under the larceny section of the penal code. Essentially, robbery in Michigan is larceny using force, violence, or making the other person afraid. When a dangerous weapon is involved, the penalties are heightened.

  • Larceny Using Force or Violence — The basic offense of committing a larceny through the use of force or violence, or when you assault the victim or make the victim afraid, is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
  • Use of a Dangerous Weapon — When you possess a dangerous weapon while committing a larceny using force or violence, or make someone believe you possess a dangerous weapon, you may be charged with a felony that is punishable with up to life in prison. When you commit an aggravated assault or cause serious injury to another person while committing a larceny with use of a dangerous weapon, you face a mandatory minimum of two years in prison.

Defending Against Your Michigan Theft Charge

A theft conviction in Michigan can be life altering. Even a first offense for a small theft can result in up to 3 months in jail and a permanent criminal record. If you or a family member is facing a larceny or retail fraud charge, you need help from a highly skilled Lansing criminal defense attorney with experience handling theft charges who can present your case and work to get you the best possible outcome.

It may be that there are extenuating circumstances that may convince a prosecutor or judge to be lenient, such as having no prior criminal history. Or the case against you may be weak, and a theft lawyer may be able to get a prosecutor to drop the charge or convince a jury to find you not guilty.

Protect Your Future and Contact DeBruin Law, PLLC

Attorney Tiffany DeBruin can advocate for you and to tell your story — a story that police and prosecutors may have ignored through the process of investigating the theft and pursuing an arrest.

Often, people charged with theft are good people who had a temporary lapse in judgment or simply made a mistake. We believe that every person deserves a fair chance in court, and we will aggressively work on your behalf to make sure that you get that.

Don’t delay! Call DeBruin Law PLLC at (517) 324-4303 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a dedicated Lansing theft lawyer.