Shoplifting is a very common offense and is considered a theft crime in which you are being charged with depriving a merchant of their goods. People have been charged with shoplifting even in situations where a person carrying a child or had their hands full innocently placed an item in their bag or pocket. The crime can range from a disorderly persons offense to a serious felony carrying heavy jail time and fines depending on the value of the merchandise and the circumstances of the incident.
You should remember that a conviction will result in having a criminal record which can make it difficult to get a job. Also if you are not a US Citizen you can be facing deportation since shoplifting is classified as a crime of moral turpitude.
What Is Considered Shoplifting?
If you walk out of a store without paying for an item of merchandise you can be facing criminal charges for shoplifting and face fines, community service and even jail time. Any items of merchandise that are concealed on your person, including bags, handbags or other containers, constitutes shoplifting under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. In New Jersey you can be guilty of shoplifting for any of the following actions:
- Purposely concealing merchandise with the intent to deprive the owner of its value.
- If a friend or family member at a store purposely undercharges you
- Switching price tags or packaging to pay less than the actual price of an item.
- Taking a shopping cart without intending to return the it to the store
What If I Am A Juvenile Caught Shoplifting?
Similar to adult charge, a juvenile can also be charged with shoplifting under the New Jersey Shoplifting Statute, N.J.S.A. 2C: 20-11. If there is probable cause to believe that a juvenile has unlawfully taken merchandise that was not paid for, the merchant or police officer may take the juvenile into custody.
Depending on how valuable the merchandise is a juvenile can face detention and fines.
- Items under $200 – it is considered a disorderly persons offense and the juvenile can face up to 6 months in detention.
- It is also a disorderly persons offense if one possesses or uses an anti-shoplifting device, such as a devices that demagnetize security tags or alters the bar codes on merchandise
- Items over $200 but less than $500 – is considered a 4th degree offense and a juvenile can face up to 1 year in detention.
- Items between $500-$75,000 – is considered a 3rd degree offense and a juvenile can face up to 2 years in detention.
- Items over $75,000 – is a 2nd degree offense and a juvenile can face up to 3 years in detention
In addition to the detention penalties outlined above, a juvenile convicted of shoplifting can be required to perform community service depending on the circumstances of the case.
What Are My Rights?
If you are suspected or caught shoplifting, store security and their employees are allowed to detain you for a reasonable amount of time. Store employees must inform you as to why you are being detained and they are not allowed to use unreasonable force or perform a strip search. During this time security will contact the police.
You have the right to remain silent if you are being arrested and you should exercise that right. You also should ask for an attorney to represent you. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty and that the Prosecutor that is charging you with a crime must prove every element of shoplifting.
What is the Penalty for Shoplifting in New Jersey?
As with most theft crimes, the penalty is relative to the value of the property that was stolen.
- Disorderly Persons Offense: If you steal property that is worth less than $200, you can be imprisoned for 6 months and fined up to $1,000.
- Fourth Degree Offense: If you steal property that is worth $200-$500, you can be imprisoned for 18 months and fined up to $10,000.
- Third Degree Offense: If you steal property that is worth more than $500 but less than $75,000, you can be imprisoned for 3-5 years and fined up to $15,000.
- Second Degree Offense: If you steal property that is valued worth more than $75,000, you can be imprisoned for 5-10 years and fined up to $150,000.
How Can The Rosenblum Law Firm Help?
Retail stores are armed with high tech video surveillance cameras, security guards and lost prevention agents to protect their merchandise. Owners of retail chains are aggressive in pursuing charges of shoplifting. It is important that you have a skilled defense attorney on your side.
We can help reduce the damage and possibly get the charges dropped. In some instances we may be able to expunge a past conviction from your record. Call us today, we are here to help you. For a free consult call 973-594-6552.