Michigan Larceny and Retail Fraud Laws

Larceny crimes quickly add up to felony-level offenses in Michigan.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 09, 2024

Michigan law punishes theft of personal property through its laws prohibiting larceny, embezzlement, fraudulent conversion, and receiving stolen property, among others.

What Is Larceny in Michigan?

Michigan law uses the term "larceny" rather than theft. To prove larceny, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) unlawfully took or fraudulently converted (2) another's personal property (money, goods, deeds, public records) (3) with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. This definition cannot be found in statute but, rather, comes from common law (court cases).

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.356, .362, .535 (2024); People v. March, 886 N.W.2d 396 (2016).)

What Are the Classifications and Penalties for Larceny in Michigan?

Like many states, Michigan sets penalties for larceny offenses based on the value of the stolen property and, in some cases, the type of property. The law also enhances penalties for offenders with past larceny convictions. For any larceny offense, a judge can order the offender to pay a fine up to the amount set in statute (as described below) or three times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

Misdemeanor Penalties for Larceny

Michigan carries two misdemeanor-level penalties for larceny.

Value less than $200. A person who steals property worth less than $200 commits a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days' jail time and a $500 fine. If the person has a prior theft conviction, the penalty bumps up to the next misdemeanor level (one year's jail time and a $2,000 fine).

Value of $200 to $1,000. Stealing property valued at $200 or more but less than $1,000 carries misdemeanor penalties of up to one year's jail time and a $2,000 fine. If the person has a prior theft conviction, the person faces a five-year felony sentence.

Felony Penalties for Larceny

Two felony-level penalties exist for larceny involving more than $1,000 or certain property.

Value of $1,000 to $20,000; certain property. A person commits a felony by stealing property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $20,000. A judge may impose a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Regardless of value, stealing a firearm or certain parts from a vehicle is also punishable at this felony level. For a person with a record of two or more prior theft convictions involving $200 or more, the person can face a 10-year felony sentence.

Value of $20,000 or more. The highest felony level for larceny involves stealing property worth $20,000 or more. A person convicted under this section faces 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Taking property (any amount) from a person also constitutes a 10-year felony. (This latter crime differs from a robbery in that the larceny offense doesn't involve violence.)

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.356, 750.357, 750.357b, 750.413 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Shoplifiting (Retail Fraud) in Michigan?

Like many states, Michigan authorizes both criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting-related offenses. Referred to as retail fraud, the law prohibits:

  • stealing or concealing merchandise with the intent of not paying for it
  • switching containers, labels, or price tags with the intent of not paying the full retail value for the merchandise, or
  • fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain money or property as a refund or exchange.

Criminal Penalties for Retail Fraud

Michigan divides retail fraud offenses into three degrees, depending on the value of the merchandise or the difference in price if the offender misrepresented the price. Like larceny offenses, a judge can order a fine up to three times the value of the property. A separate but related offense involves interfering with theft-detection devices.

Third-degree retail fraud. Third-degree retail fraud is a misdemeanor offense and carries the same penalties as larceny. A person commits third-degree retail fraud when the value or price difference was less than $200. A conviction can result in up to 93 day's jail time and a $500 fine. The offense increases to second-degree retail fraud if the person has a prior retail fraud or larceny conviction.

Second-degree retail fraud. Second-degree retail fraud occurs when the offense involves merchandise with a value or price difference of $200 or more but less than $1,000. The offender faces a misdemeanor penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. A second-degree retail fraud can be charged as first-degree if the person has a prior retail fraud or larceny conviction.

First-degree retail fraud. A person commits first-degree retail fraud (a felony) if the offense involves merchandise or a price difference of more than $1,000. A conviction for first-degree retail fraud carries up to a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Theft detection devices. Michigan also makes it a separate crime to make, sell, distribute, or possess a laminated or coated bag or another device with the intent of avoiding or deactivating a retail establishment's theft-detection devices. This crime carries a misdemeanor penalty of one year's jail time and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent offenses can be punished as a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison or a $4,000 fine.

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.356c, 750.356d, 750.360a (2024).)

Civil Penalties for Retail Fraud

A person who commits retail fraud can also face civil penalties if the store owner decides to bring an action in civil court. A store owner can recover from the offender or parents of a minor offender (younger than 18):

  • the full retail price of the stolen property if it's not returned or can't be resold, and
  • civil damages of up to 10 times the retail price of the property, up to a maximum of $200.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2953 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face larceny, retail fraud, or other theft-related charges, speak with a local criminal defense attorney. Even a misdemeanor conviction carries significant consequences. Any jail time or conviction record can make it difficult to find a job or housing or apply for a loan. And past convictions can be used to enhance future sentences. An attorney can help you understand the law and the criminal justice process and defend your rights.

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