There is more than one level to criminal law in Michigan. The same activity can lead to a wide range of penalties, depending on certain evidence that the prosecution uses against the defendant.
Let us examine theft for example. It is known more formally as "larceny" under the Michigan penal code. The statute says that theft of items with a value of less than $200 is a misdemeanor, with a maximum jail sentence of 93 days and a fine.
The higher the value of the stolen property, the higher the maximum sentence for the person convicted of stealing it. The highest possible sentence in the statute is 10 years and a fine of $15,000 or three times the value of the property.
But that is not really the maximum. Other statutes make larceny an even more serious crime. For example, the use of "force or violence against any person" at the scene of the crime, or somehow "put[ting] the person in fear," increases the maximum sentence to 15 years in prison.
On top of that, the statute for "aggravated assault" puts the accused at risk of life in prison, if he or she is convicted of using a "dangerous weapon" during the theft. Alternatively, the defendant can be convicted of using a fake weapon, or just claiming to have a weapon, and be put away for life.
Thus, due to these elevator laws, a theft can be a relatively minor crime, or it can be treated as almost an equivalent of homicide or other violent crimes. Because a conviction could end with a very serious prison sentence, it is important that someone charged with a larceny crime consult with a defense attorney as soon as possible.