Retail Fraud Arraignment

In Michigan once a ticket for Retail Fraud (also known as shoplifting or retail theft) is issued, or a criminal charge is filed (or sworn to) at the district court, the first court date is known as the arraignment.  There are several things that occur at an arraignment.

First, the Defendant is advised of the charge and potential penalty.  When it comes to Retail Fraud, there are a few potential charges that a Defendant could face:

  1. Retail Fraud ordinance violation.    This offense involves an alleged theft, or attempted theft, of merchandise from a store offered for sale while the store is open for business.  The maximum allowable sentence for this offense is 93 days in jail.  Ordinance violations are prosecuted by a city/township/village, or a lawyer/law firm that represents a city/township/village.
  2. Retail Fraud 3rd Degree.  This offense involves an alleged theft, or attempted theft, of merchandise from a store that offered for sale for under $200 dollars while the store is open to the public.  The maximum allowable sentence for this offense is 93 days in jail.  This offense can be prosecuted by a state prosecutor or by a city/township/village.
  3. RetailFraud 2nd Degree.  This offense involves an alleged theft, or attempted theft, or merchandise from a store that is offered for sale from $200 dollars up to $1000 dollars.  It can also be prosecuted when the merchandise is offered for sale under $200 dollars, but the Defendant has a prior theft conviction.  To determine the amount of the merchandise involved, the sales prices can be added together.  For example, if a person was arrested for retail fraud for allegedly stealing 2 items of clothing from the same store that were each priced at $150 each, the amounts would be added together to determine the amount.  Hence, the Defendant would be prosecuted for 1 count of Retail Fraud 2nd Degree, rather than 2 counts of Retail Fraud 3rd Degree.  The maximum possible sentence for this offense is 1 year in the county jail.  This offense is prosecuted only by state prosecutors.
  4. Retail Fraud 1st Degree.  This offense is similar to the above offenses, except either the merchandise is offered for sale for $1000 dollars or more, or the merchandise is $200 or more and the Defendant has a prior theft conviction.  Again, the merchandise prices can be added together to determine the proper charge.  This offense carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison.  The maximum sentence can be increased if the Defendant is a habitual offender.  This offense is prosecuted by a state prosecutor.
  5. Organized Retail Fraud.  This offense involves a theft, or attempted theft, of merchandise from a store while the store was open to the public.  However, what is different about this offense is that the prosecution must prove that the Defendant’s intent was to resell the items.  For example, if a Defendant allegedly stole 10 cans of baby formula from a store the prosecution would likely allege that the reason for the theft was to sell the baby formula to another store or other individuals based upon the quantity involved.  Organized Retail Fraud also carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison (or more if the Defendant is subject to habitual offender sentencing).

Second, the Judge or magistrate at the arraignment will decide on setting a bond amount.  Setting a bond amount means requiring the Defendant (or someone on behalf of the Defendant) to post cash, surety, 10%, or make a personal commitment to appear at all future court dates.  When deciding on the bond amount or type, the Judge or magistrate will generally consider if the Defendant poses a risk to the community, and the likelihood the Defendant will appear at future court dates.  The Judge or magistrate can place conditions on the bond as well such as drug testing, not being able to return to the location where the theft allegedly occurred, not being able to leave the State, etc.  A violation of a bond condition can lead the Court to revoke the bond, or redetermine the bond amount and conditions.  It is often important to have a lawyer present at arraignment, however the Defendant is not provided with a court appointed lawyer for this proceeding.  If the Defendant retains a lawyer, the retained lawyer can be present at the arraignment to represent the Defendant and argue for a low or personal bond.  There are even some Courts that will allow the Defendant to skip the arraignment if he or she has a retained lawyer.

Third, the Judge or magistrate will provide the Defendant with his or her next court date.  If the Defendant is charged with a misdemeanor (an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 1 year or less in jail), the next court date will be a pretrial conference.  If the Defendant is charged with a felony, the next court date will be a probable cause conference (also known as a PCC).

Fourth, if the Defendant is indigent, he or she can request a court appointed lawyer for the next court date.  A court appointed lawyer, however, is not present at the time of the arraignment.  A court appointed lawyer is not free – the Defendant will in most cases be ordered to reimburse the cost of the lawyer.