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Retail fraud is a common offense that is regularly prosecuted.  Because shoplifting affects the profitability of stores, owners and corporations have taken steps to combat theft.  Many stores employ a combination of manpower, technology, and aggressively prosecuting offenders as a means to address this issue.

The manpower that is used for larger chain stores is primarily in the form of asset protection (also called loss prevention).  Asset prevention are trained to detect shoplifters based upon their mannerisms or based upon keeping track of persons that have been suspected of stealing from the store in the past.  There is also the use of customer service to actively engage the shopper (“is there something I can help you find”) to create an impression that the shopper is being watched.  Employees try to keep track of how many items are taken into dressing rooms, and to inspect dressing rooms to look for evidence of theft such as removed sensors, removed price tags, and missing items.  Many larger stores also have greeters or persons that verify receipts before the customer exits the store.

Technology can be in many forms.  The obvious technology are closed circuit television cameras and sensor detection devices.  Other forms of technology include store designs that eliminate or reduce blind spots.

One of the worst feelings a parent can have is to hear that their child was arrested for a crime such as shoplifting.  After getting over the initial shock and disappointment the question becomes what will happen next.  If your child is lucky the store, police, and/or prosecution will decide not to pursue the charge.  In many cases, if the child is older than 12 years old there may be some form of court intervention.

In Michigan, for petty offenses such as retail fraud, where the case is prosecuted depends upon the age of the child.  For children under the age of 17 years, the matter is handled by a juvenile court.  Jurisdiction for juvenile cases is usually in the county where the offense allegedly occurred, which may or may not be different from the county where the offense actually occurred.  If your child is 17 years or older the case will be handled at the District Court that has jurisdiction over the case, which is where cases for adults are heard.

In both juvenile and District Court your child will have similar rights.  These rights include the following:

Court, to many, is a new experience.  With new experiences there is often anxiety and worry that accompany such an experience.  The following are general tips related to court appearances.  This blog is not intended to be a substitute to hiring a lawyer to properly assert or defend your interests:

  1.  It is recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer if you don’t have a lawyer already.  You are at a disadvantage if you do not have a lawyer, because lawyers have the skills, knowledge of the law, and the expertise to help you get the best possible result.  Persons that are not lawyers that represent themselves are held to the same standard as a lawyer.  The same rules of procedure and rules of evidence apply.  Persons that are indigent can request a public defender for criminal cases and child protective services parental rights cases.
  2. Make sure that you are aware of the time and location for your court hearing.  Failure to appear, or not appearing timely, can result in a bad result.  For criminal cases not appearing or being late can result in a bench warrant.  For civil cases, the failure to appear or appearing late can result in a negative result, and in some cases even having a judgment or order entered against you.  Make sure you are aware of rush hour traffic, construction, or other issues that may delay you.  If you are going to be late, make sure you call and discuss it with your lawyer.  If you do not have a lawyer, contact the court.  The court may or may not excuse your tardiness.  If you have a criminal matter and you do not have a lawful ability to drive an automobile it is advisable to find a ride or alternative transportation.  Many courts inquire as to how you got to court – especially if it is related to a bond condition.

Why people steal is a complex question with many different possible answers:

  1.  Thrill.  There is a sense of excitement for many.  The thought of getting away with something can be enticing.  The sense of accomplishment for outsmarting the system is intoxicating to others.  The adrenaline.  The satisfaction.  The feeling of achievement.
  2. Mental illness.  To some, the need to steal is a compulsion.  It is not always about need.  Typically a kleptomaniac steals without giving much thought to whether or not he or she actually needs the item.  It is not uncommon for people that steal to suffer from some form of depression.

Target stores take an aggressive approach to apprehending suspected shoplifters.  The reason for this is to deter shoplifting, reduce losses, and to protect the merchandise.  What specifically does Target do to address retail fraud:

First, Target prosecutes for shoplifting.  There are no warnings.  There is no mercy.   The employees involved with the theft investigation testify in courtrooms, when necessary. Target actively bans people from their stores with no trespassing orders who it suspects of  shoplifting.  Target has a civil law firm seek civil law settlements and judgments for damages.

Second, the store employs asset protection/loss prevention personnel that are well trained.  Technology is used to help the loss prevention team, such as closed circuit television, theft detection devices, and store designs to eliminate blind spots.  The loss prevention personnel have specialized training to identify behaviors of shoppers that suggest that they may commit some form of theft.  Target tries to identify known shoplifters so that loss prevention is alerted whenever such a suspect enters the store so that they can be watched closely.

It is not uncommon for a college student to have a retail fraud arrest (which is also known as a shoplifting arrest).  The reasons for it may include the thrill, greed, or necessity.  The common element to this type of offense is that if the student committed a retail fraud he or she did not look beyond the moment.  When you are young you may feel invincible, or might not look at the long term consequences.

All of this behavior is rather silly when the long term consequences are considered in light of the time, effort, and tens of thousands of dollars spent on a higher education.  The bottom line is that employers do not want to hire people with theft convictions.  Why?  There is a fear that the employee will steal from them or from customers.  Persons that do not respect boundaries when it comes to a merchant’s products may not respect boundaries when it comes to the workplace and company assets.  Also, there are plenty of other people looking for jobs to choose from that do not have shoplifting convictions.

The government also recognizes that persons with theft convictions should be either highly scrutinized or prevented from obtaining certain types of jobs.  Many jobs that require licensing such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants. etc, mandate that the person obtaining the license pass fitness and character background checks.

It is not uncommon for a police officer to mail out a ticket, or for a court to send out notice of a traffic offense or misdemeanor in the mail.  The ticket will have on it the name of the offense, the location where the offense needs to be handled, and a date by which the ticket or offense needs to be addressed.

There are several reasons why the notice is sent out by mail, rather than given at the time of the alleged offense:

  1.  Sometimes there is an ongoing investigation that needs to be completed before a decision can be made concerning a charge.  Examples of this include: in a DUI case the police are waiting to determine the blood alcohol level from a blood sample; in a possession of a controlled substance case the alleged contraband needs to be tested to confirm the nature of the substance; the officer needs to conduct additional interviews to determine whether or not there is probable cause that an offense occurred;

For any immigration related issue your best bet is to hire an experienced immigration lawyer.  The information in this blog is subject to change at any time.  Reading a blog is not a substitute for seeking the services of an experienced immigration or criminal defense lawyer.

Retail Fraud is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT).  A conviction for retail fraud may or may not disqualify you for a visa in the United States.  The issue becomes whether or not the conviction is classified as a petty offense pursuant to INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II).

There is a 2 part test to determine if the conviction is for a petty offense:

In Michigan, individuals must have proof of legal citizenship or legal presence in the United States in order to obtain a valid driver’s license.   Undocumented and illegal aliens at the present time are not eligible to obtain a Michigan driver’s license.  Most aliens (including undocumented aliens) and most other non-residents of Michigan can protect themselves from accusations of Driving Without a License by taking the steps outlined by Michigan Compiled Law 257.302a.

This law states that non-residents are not required to obtain a Michigan driver’s license to drive in Michigan.  In order to drive legally the non-resident must do the following:

  1. Make sure that your home country is part of an international treaty or other agreement that is recognized by Michigan.  The following countries are treaty countries:

When a family member is arrested, there is often a period of concern and worry because the family member cannot be reached.  Sometimes the family member is deprived of the ability to use a telephone during their initial period of incarceration.  A lawyer has greater access to see persons incarcerated, because the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to be represented by counsel.  The following are some obstacles that a person has while initially incarcerated.

  1.  The family may have concerns about the general health and well being of the incarcerated family member.  This is especially true when the family member has a physical or mental health issue and needs to receive proper medication.  In many instances jails deny persons incarcerated proper medical care and proper medication.  The intervention of a lawyer sometimes can correct this situation.
  2. The family may have concerns that the incarcerated family member’s rights are not being protected.  Often after an arrest a police agency will attempt to obtain a statement from the person arrested concerning what allegedly occurred.  An individual who speaks to the police, especially without consulting with a lawyer, is at a great disadvantage.  Police officers are trained at gathering evidence, which includes obtaining statements that are or seem to be incriminating.  Police officers also sometimes try to obtain consent to perform searches of property.  Sometimes the consent given can undermine the case or defense.  Police are not supposed to question a Defendant that it knows is represented by a lawyer.