The Full Cost of a ‘Five-Finger Discount’

December 7, 2016 · by igniweb · in

For many, money is tight this holiday season. Sometimes, that can lead to the temptation to apply the old “five-finger discount” during a holiday shopping trip. Unfortunately, a little shoplifting can carry huge consequences.

Under New Jersey law, there are six ways a person can commit the crime of shoplifting.

  1. Attempting to carry away or transfer merchandise out of a store without paying for it.
  2. Intentionally concealing merchandise to circumvent payment.
  3. Altering or changing price tags.
  4. Moving merchandise from one container to another in order to pay a lower price.
  5. Under-ringing merchandise, e.g. not scanning an item at the self-checkout.
  6. Removing a shopping cart from the premises.

The penalties for shoplifting depend on the full retail value merchandise.

  • Less than $200. This is considered a disorderly persons offense. A conviction could lead to up 10 days in jail for a first-time offense.
  • Between $200 and $500. The act is now considered a crime of the fourth degree. You could face up 18 months in prison plus a $10,000 fine.
  • Between $500 and $75,000. As a crime of the third degree, a conviction means three to five years in prison plus $15,000 in fines.
  • More than $75,000. Not sure how you were planning to get all that stuff out of the store, but getting caught is a crime of the second degree, which carries up to 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines.

In addition, any unauthorized use of an anti-shoplifting or inventory control device within the store is a disorderly persons offense that can be charged separately on top of a possible shoplifting charge, and can add an additional 10 days to your sentence.

The key to fighting a shoplifting charge boils down to a question of intent. While some situations, such as changing price tags and under-ringing merchandise, don’t require proof of intent, the majority of instances do. In such cases, if you can prove that a product was removed from the store by accident (or disprove that it was removed intentionally), the charge can be fought. This can be difficult, especially in the age of video surveillance, and may require the aid of an experienced defense attorney.

On top of the established penalties, individuals convicted of shoplifting may also be responsible for reimbursing the cost of the merchandise and possibly even the legal fees for the merchant. Such costs can really add up, which calls into question whether the “discount” was worth the risk. If you or a loved one is arrested for shoplifting or for any other criminal offense in New Jersey, you need a skilled attorney who can fight for your rights and help you avoid the most serious consequences. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are experienced criminal defense attorneys who have helped many other people in similar situations. Email or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.