Shoplifting is something many Michigan residents understand as the taking of property from a store without paying for it. Some young people may consider it to be something that can get away with, and even if they get caught, the penalties are unlikely to be severe. However, these assumptions can be very harmful. Shoplifting is still a crime and the consequences for committing it can impact you for the rest of your life. 

Michigan law describes shoplifting offenses and how a person may be charged if arrested for shoplifting. It is important to know that shoplifting can take a number of different forms. Also, some factors come into play when it comes to shoplifting charges and resulting penalties. 

Definition of shoplifting 

According to state law, shoplifting is classified as retail fraud. While a person may commit retail fraud by stealing something from a store, there are other offenses that qualify as retail fraud. One offense involves defrauding a store by trying to gain money from a store under the pretense of a refund for a store item, except the item was never actually paid for. 

Additional offenses include trying to pay for a product but not paying the full price for it. Some offenders try to alter or remove the intended price for an item in an attempt to get a cashier or someone working in the store to believe that the item is available for a lower price. 

Value Matters 

How much money is defrauded from a store is going to factor into how severe the charges will be. Shoplifting goods valued less than $200 will likely result in a third degree misdemeanor. If the products stolen are valued between $200 and $1,000, the penalty is upgraded to a second degree misdemeanor. If the stolen goods are valued over a thousand dollars, the charge could ascend to a felony status. 

Prior Convictions 

It matters a great deal if you had already been convicted for shoplifting. Michigan law only allows for a person to receive the lighter sentence of a third degree misdemeanor if that person had no prior shoplifting convictions. Also, if you are convicted of shoplifting, a prosecutor may use past convictions to make your sentence more severe. Under state law, a separate hearing is used to determine the validity of past shoplifting convictions prior to sentencing. 

Civil Liabilities 

If convicted of shoplifting, going to jail and paying a fine may not be the end of your problems. FindLaw explains that a store may sue you for damages and penalties that stem from stealing or otherwise defrauding the store. Damages can rise up to ten times of the retail price of the stolen products.