When potential clients reach out to me, one common question they ask is about the possible consequences they may face if convicted of retail fraud. I explain that there are criminal consequences within the courthouse, as well as additional consequences that will impact their daily life, including their career.
First and foremost, the level of retail fraud charges determines the potential jail time, which can range from 93 days to one year for misdemeanors and up to five years for felonies. In addition to jail and prison time, there is the possibility of probation lasting up to 24 months for misdemeanors and 60 months for felonies.
Furthermore, there are mandatory fines and costs associated with each charge, as well as potential requirements for alcohol and drug testing, community service, inpatient or outpatient treatment, educational programs, attendance at support group meetings, travel restrictions, and various other probation sanctions. However, the most damaging consequence is having a criminal conviction on one's record.
A criminal record can significantly impact various aspects of daily life. When applying for jobs, loans, college, graduate school, professional licenses, or even filling out chaperone forms for children's class trips, individuals will have to disclose their criminal record and specifically mention a conviction for theft and dishonesty. This could lead to a lack of trust when it comes to handling money or sensitive information.
I work with clients from diverse professions, and it's important to note that certain jobs can be jeopardized by a retail fraud conviction. Professionals such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, attorneys, airline pilots, accountants, financial planners, and many others—roughly 500 different careers in my experience—could face the loss of their licenses due to such a conviction.
Additionally, there are specific consequences for individuals who hold concealed weapon permits (CPL), licensed drivers, individuals on probation or parole, those going through custody or divorce proceedings, and clients who are not U.S. citizens. It's crucial to inform your attorney about any licenses, situations, and current or future career goals you may have. Many clients are unaware that a retail fraud conviction can impact their CPL, only to receive a suspension notice in the mail that puts their safety and livelihood at risk.
Each case has its unique facts and circumstances. Depending on the prosecutor and judge involved, we will discuss possible options for your specific case. While many retail fraud cases may seem challenging due to strong evidence against the client, such as being caught in the act or making full admissions to the offense, it may make pursuing a trial impractical. In these situations, clients must recognize that they made an illegal choice with consequences. However, fortunately for the clients I represent, they follow my proactive program, positioning themselves for the possibility of having their retail fraud charges dismissed or reduced.
Ultimately, the main goal for my clients is to avoid a retail fraud conviction, and there are various ways to achieve this, whether through a trial or a reduction or dismissal of charges.