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Theft covers quite a few potential charges. Defined as taking something that belongs to someone else without the intention to return the item, theft can include money, belongings, vehicles, and almost anything else. Those who are arrested and charged with theft could be facing a misdemeanor or felony charge depending on the value of the item stolen. In Michigan, theft charges are also known as larceny. Read below to learn more about these charges before contacting a lawyer for help in your case.

Types of Theft Charges in Michigan

Petty Theft or Larceny

Petty theft or larceny is the theft of items or services valued under $200. This is a misdemeanor charge and the accused faces up to 93 days in jail if convicted. Fines depend on the amount taken. The fines can be up to $500 or three times the value of the items or services that were taken. Often, the fine is whichever is a higher amount. This is the lowest charge possible for larceny with the lowest potential sentences.

Second-Degree Theft or Larceny

If the goods or services taken were valued at more than $200 and less than $1,000, the charge is second-degree theft or larceny. This is also a misdemeanor charge, though it is more serious than petty larceny. With second-degree larceny, the accused faces up to one year in jail. Fines can be up to $2,000 or three times the value of what was taken, whatever is the higher amount.

Felony Theft Charges

Felony theft also has two different levels, though a felony charge is the theft of anything valued at $1,000 or more. If the value of the items or services taken is between $1,000 and $20,000, the accused faces up to five years in prison. The potential fines are three times the value of what was taken or up to $10,000, whichever one is greater. The second level is more serious and includes the theft of anything valued at more than $20,000. If this is the case, the accused is facing up to 10 years in prison. They may also have fines ranging up to $15,000 or three times the value that was stolen.

Theft of Motor Vehicles or Vehicle Parts

The exception to the value difference between misdemeanor and felony charges is when the items taken include motor vehicles or vehicle parts. This includes trailers, as well. In these cases, even if the part or vehicle was not valued at more than $1,000, the accused will face a felony charge. This means they are facing up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, even if the vehicle or part was valued lower than the standard minimum for a felony charge. This is done to discourage the theft of vehicles or vehicle parts.

Retail Fraud

Retail fraud, also known as shoplifting, is typically a misdemeanor charge. Depending on the value of the items stolen, however, it could become a felony charge. Shoplifting charges do not have to occur inside a store, just on the property. If something is outside of the store on display, for instance, and the accused takes it, they could be charged with shoplifting without entering the store. The accused also doesn’t have to leave the building for shoplifting to apply as moving something with the intent to steal is sufficient to be charged with retail fraud.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is the act of taking something from someone else while using force, violence, or the threat of violence. It is a specific larceny charge that covers instances where something is taken while the accused is in possession of a weapon, has something that could be used as a weapon, or that stated they had a weapon, even if they didn’t have one. Someone who steals from a gas station, for instance, while pretending to have a gun in a pocket could be charged with armed robbery, even if they didn’t have a gun and had no intention of hurting anyone else.

Receiving Stolen Property

If someone knowingly purchases stolen property, they could be at risk of being charged with receiving and concealing stolen property. The key here is that the person must have willingly accepted the property knowing it was stolen. Someone purchasing something that has had identification marks or serial numbers removed, for instance, could be charged with receiving stolen property, as the removal should be a sign that the property was not obtained legally and is not being sold legally. Otherwise, the prosecution must prove that the buyer knew that they were receiving stolen property to obtain a conviction.

Reduction in Sentencing

In Michigan, if someone is arrested for the first time and is charged with larceny, they may be able to receive a probationary sentence instead of going to jail. It is not likely someone will be able to receive a reduced sentence if they have prior convictions for anything, especially other larceny charges. This also tends to be more likely to occur for petty larceny or second-degree larceny, not a felony larceny charge. Defendants will need to speak with their lawyer to find out if it’s possible to receive a reduced sentence and avoid jail completely even if they are convicted of the crime.

Charges After a Prior Conviction

If the accused already has a conviction for theft, they could be facing increased penalties. The penalties can be one degree higher than what the charged offense would typically be for a first-time offender. For instance, if a person is accused of stealing something valued at $150, they would normally face a petty larceny charge. If they have a prior conviction for larceny, however, they could instead face a second-degree larceny charge. This is still a misdemeanor but comes with a longer potential jail term and higher potential fines.

Larceny charges cover a lot of different crimes and, depending on the value of the items stolen or the items themselves, it’s possible for the accused to face a lengthy time in jail or prison as well as huge fines. Those who are accused of larceny, no matter the severity of the charge, will want to speak with a lawyer about their case and learn about the possible defenses or other ways to avoid a conviction or minimize the potential sentence. Talk to an attorney today to learn more about your case.

FAQs About Being Arrested For Theft and What Not to Do

Being accused of theft or larceny and arrested, as a result, can cause people to do things without thinking about the possible repercussions. When someone has been accused of a crime like theft, there are many things they should avoid doing. Read through the questions and answers below to make sure you know what not to do and how to handle the case to try to get a better outcome for the situation.

Should I Argue With the Accuser?

Arguments aren’t going to solve anything. The accuser is going to be sure that a theft occurred and that the accused is the one who did it, and they’re not likely going to change their mind because of an argument. Plus, it is all too easy for an argument to spiral out of control and turn into a fight. At that point, the accused could also be facing assault or battery charges on top of the larceny charges. It’s better to remain calm and let a lawyer handle the entire situation instead of trying to handle it alone through an argument.

Should I Talk to the Loss Prevention About What Happened?

No. Loss prevention will create a report of what happened and any evidence they have of the theft. If you speak with loss prevention, you could inadvertently say something that they can use in their report, which can then be used in court to secure a conviction. It is better to simply avoid saying anything at all other than to request legal representation or to ask if you’re free to leave.

Should I Sign Papers Provided by the Store?

No. Loss prevention in stores will often ask the accused to sign paperwork and will state that it’s just a record of what happened. By signing, the accused agrees to the loss prevention’s side of the story and may be admitting to the theft. While it may be possible to have this evidence dismissed if it was signed under duress, don’t bet on this being possible. Instead, refuse to sign anything without having a lawyer review the document first.

Should I Try to Explain Myself to the Police?

No. Like speaking with loss prevention, it’s better to avoid saying anything at all. Many people will attempt to talk their way out of an arrest or share their side of the story in an effort to convince the police they are innocent. However, anything said to the officers can be used against the accused in court and they may say something that can be taken out of context and used as evidence of guilt. Instead of telling the police your side of the story, simply request a lawyer.

Should I Talk During Questioning?

After the arrest, the police will likely want to get more information about the potential crime that occurred. It is still not a good idea to speak with them and answer any of their questions. You have the right to remain silent and the right to legal representation, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of both of these rights. With a lawyer’s help, it will be possible to answer any questions carefully and work on clearing up confusion before the situation gets worse or avoid saying anything that could be incriminating.

Should I Plead Guilty to the Theft?

No. Even if you did steal something, don’t jump into pleading guilty. Though this is often done under the belief that the judge will go easy on someone who is truthful, that isn’t always the case. Someone who pleads guilty will face the maximum sentence for the level of theft. The key point to understand, though, is that even if you’re guilty, it may be possible to avoid a conviction or request a reduced sentence.

It’s much better to fight the charges with the help of a lawyer and avoid a conviction than to plead guilty to get it over with faster or because you aren’t sure there are viable defenses for your situation. Let the lawyer determine if it’s possible to avoid a conviction, as being convicted can have a significant impact on your future past the potential jail time and fines.

Should I Return to the Store to Purchase Items?

No. If you’ve been accused of theft from a store, it is better to avoid the store completely, at least until the case is over. Returning to the store could lead to trespassing charges on top of the larceny charges, which could lead to more severe penalties. Instead, regardless of whether the store has stated you cannot return to the premises, it’s better to avoid the store completely and shop elsewhere.

Should I Attempt to Return the Item or Items?

There are three main reasons why someone would attempt to return an item from the store. The first is that the person honestly didn’t attempt to steal anything and realized they walked out of the store without paying. If there is no intent to deprive the store of property, there hasn’t been a crime, so returning to pay for the item or return it can be okay to do.

The second reason is an attempt to gain cash from the transaction or store credit. In these cases, the person who stole something will attempt a receipt-less return in the hopes of receiving money or a gift card they can then spend on items they need. If this happens, the person can face more serious charges. It is better to avoid returning to the store in this situation.

The third reason is to try to avoid charges. Once caught stealing, a person may try to hand back the item and leave, hoping that there won’t be charges for theft because the item didn’t leave the store. In Michigan, however, leaving the store is not required for someone to be charged with larceny. If they attempted to hide the item with the intent to steal, they can still be arrested and charged with theft, even if they hand the item back after the accusation.

Should I Just Ignore the Charges?

Never ignore the charges. It’s tempting to pretend the arrest never happened and that you aren’t facing a conviction, but if you are not prepared for court, it is far more likely you will be convicted and will face the maximum sentence. If you do not show up for court, there will likely be a bench warrant for your arrest and you could have additional charges as a result. Always work quickly to get help handling any criminal charges and work with a lawyer to avoid further issues that could result from ignoring the charges. The lawyer can be there to represent you if you cannot make it to court for some reason and will be able to review and prepare for the case before any hearings. This will help you get a better outcome and avoid additional charges or arrests.

Should I Attempt to Handle the Case On My Own?

No. It is never a good idea to attempt to handle criminal charges without a lawyer. Pro se, or representing yourself, is rarely successful, even if the person is knowledgeable about the law and the criminal justice system. It is much better to have an attorney with experience who can review the case and let you know what the options are. With the right legal help, it may be possible to avoid a conviction completely or minimize the potential sentences if you are convicted.

Should I Accept a Plea Deal?

It is not a good idea to accept a plea deal without speaking to a lawyer first. Plea deals are often tempting because they offer a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea and may end the case faster, allowing you to put it behind you and move on. However, by accepting a plea deal, you’ll typically end up with a conviction on your record, which can be problematic in the future. Instead, have an attorney review the plea deal to find out whether or not it might be a good option before accepting anything.

If you’ve been arrested for larceny, there are many things you’ll want to avoid doing to prevent making the situation worse. However, the one thing you do want to do is speak with an attorney quickly. Contact Weise Law today for your free consultation. (616) 931-7030

We can defend you in all types of criminal charges including felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile cases throughout West Michigan.

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