Although tampering with a theft detection device goes hand and hand with retail fraud, in Michigan this is a separate criminal offense. This offense can be prosecuted either under the laws of the State of Michigan or by local ordinance.
Michigan Compiled Law 750.360a identifies the different ways that this crime occurs:
- Being in possession of a bag that is either laminated or coated with the purpose of shielding merchandise from detection for the intent of attempting to steal or stealing can result in prosecution.
- If you sell, try to sell, manufacture, or otherwise distribute the bag listed above knowing or reasonably believing that the bag will be used to steal or attempt to steal this crime can be pursued against you.
- If you posses a device or tool that is used to remove or deactivate a theft detection device and your intent is to use that device or tool for that purpose without the permission of the store or owner of the merchandise you could be prosecuted for this crime. Naturally, it is not a crime if you work for the store and you possess such a tool in the performance of your job duties and your intent is not to steal or assist someone who is trying to steal.
- You do not even need to have a device or tool to be prosecuted for this offense. If you otherwise remove or deactivate a theft detection device from merchandise with the intent to steal or attempt to steal this offense can be charged.
The penalty for this offense depends upon who is prosecuting the offense in Michigan, and the person’s prior record:
- If this offense is being prosecuted under local ordinances, the maximum possible penalty is a misdemeanor conviction with either 90 or 93 days in jail, depending upon the jurisdiction.
- If this offense is being prosecuted by a State prosecutor or Michigan Attorney General’s office the penalty is a 1 year maximum misdemeanor with a possible fine of up to $1,000. However, if the person has a prior conviction for this offense the offense can be prosecuted as a felony. The maximum possible penalty for this felony is up to 4 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $4,000.
When someone possesses a tool or device to commit a retail fraud, often Judges are harsher when it comes to sentencing. The reason for this is that the offense goes beyond an impulse or spur of the moment decision. It shows premeditation, planning, and a larger level of sophistication. A person who uses tools or devices likely has a prior history stealing from stores, or at least this is what the Judge is likely to believe.
Prosecutors are free to charge an individual for both theft detection removal/deactivation and retail fraud at the same time. There is no issue with double jeopardy.
If you are arrested for tampering with a theft detection device, retail fraud, organized retail theft, or any other shoplifting offense it is extremely important to not make statements to loss prevention, police officers, or anyone else about what allegedly occurred. The only person you should discuss your case with is your attorney, and only when you are in a private location.
If you are not guilty or if you are guilty, your lawyer will help you obtain the best possible result. Your lawyer is able to obtain all the evidence against you, and plan your best defense.
If you are seeking to resolve your case by entering a plea, your lawyer will help you achieve the best possible sentence. In some cases, your lawyer can help you avoid having a conviction appear on a public record.
Retail fraud related offenses are serious and require legal representation that has experience with defending these types of offenses. Any lawyer will not do. For an experienced criminal defense lawyer that specializes in retail fraud offenses I recommend that you trust Attorney Daniel Hilf of Hilf & Hilf, PLC with your case.