Shoplifting Defense

Not so long ago, shoplifting was regarded as a disorderly persons offense regardless of what was taken from the store in question. This changed in 2000 when the state made dramatic changes to the New Jersey shoplifting law in an effort to crack down on this offense. The potential penalties for shoplifting were increased significantly with the creation of a second degree, third degree and fourth-degree crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. Grading and associated penalties for this violation are predicated on the value of the property stolen. A disorderly persons offense for shoplifting, which can be heard in municipal court, is limited to shoplifting of property with a value of less than $200. Jurisdiction to decide cases involving items with a value above this threshold rests with the Camden County Superior Court as this is the venue with jurisdiction to decide indictable offenses (i.e. felony cases).

Our law firm, The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has vast experience representing those charged with shoplifting in Camden County, including in municipalities like Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Camden City, Pennsauken, and Gloucester Township. We are one of New Jersey’s largest criminal defense firms, feature several former counties and/or municipal prosecutors, and have successfully handled too many shoplifting violations over the past two decades to even quantify. A lawyer on our eight-member team is ready to serve you anywhere in this region including in:

For an immediate consultation with an attorney, call our Cherry Hill Office at 856-662-8300. The consultation is free of charge.

Six Types of Shoplifting Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11

Specifically now, what is regarded as shoplifting consists of six types of activities that are proscribed as illegal. The most obvious of these is “purposeful taking away of merchandise,” i.e. someone takes merchandise away from the store without the permission of the owner. Another of these which seems fairly obvious is the taking away of a shopping cart from the premises of the shop without the permission of the owner. Some less obvious ones are concealment of merchandise (the law allows for the presumption that if you conceal merchandise that you intend not to pay), purposeful altering or transferring of price tag (i.e. you change, alter, or remove the price tag), purposeful transfer to another container (i.e. you put the merchandise in another container with the intent to deprive the owner of full value), and, lastly, purposeful under-ringing of merchandise (i.e. the person has the merchandise rung up for less than its worth). These last four do not even require that you leave the premises with any merchandise to be found guilty, because the presumption is that if you engage in any of these acts that you have an intent to deprive the owner of the value of the property.

Additionally, it is also possible to be charged for being a part of an “organized retail theft enterprise”. This means that you are involved in an association of two or more persons who are associated for the purposes of transferring shoplifted merchandise. This crime, like a regular shoplifting crime, is dependent upon the value of the property that is stolen. Furthermore, there could be an additional charge for being a leader of this retail theft enterprise, a crime of the second degree. Importantly, this charge does not merge with any of the other charges that may be brought against you, so you could be found to be guilty of shoplifting, being a member of an organized retail theft enterprise, and the leader of that enterprise separately.

Degrees of Shoplifting Offenses

The gradation of these offenses, as stated above, is dependent upon the value of the merchandise that is stolen. It is still a disorderly persons offense when the full retail value of the property that is stolen is less than $200. It is a crime of the fourth degree for stealing property that has a full retail value of above $200, but less than $500. It is a crime of the third degree when the full retail value of the property that is stolen exceeds $500, but is less than $75,000. It is a crime of the second degree to shoplift property that has value in excess of $75,000. Typically, these offenses can be downgraded so as to not expose a shoplifter to extended jail sentences, however, Attorney General’s guidelines prohibit the downgrading of a second-degree offense and also prohibit the downgrading of a third-degree offense if the value of the property taken is in excess of $2000. Typically this third-degree offense could be reduced to a fourth-degree offense and a fourth-degree offense may be remanded to municipal court as a disorderly persons offense under the right circumstances.

Another important factor that plays into the gradation of the violation is the defendant’s prior history with shoplifting. If this is the person’s first offense, they may allow the downgrading of the violation, but if this is the person’s third or subsequent offense then downgrading of the violation to a lesser degree is not permissible. Furthermore, no matter what number offense this is for you, you will always be subject to mandatory community service. A first offense comes with ten days of mandatory community service. For a second offense, the amount of community service may not be less than 15 days. For a third or subsequent offense, there must be a maximum of 25 days of community service and not less than 90 days imprisonment. So for a third offense, regardless of the degree of the offense, you must serve 90 days in jail.

Get The Help You Need

Needless to say, shoplifting can become a very serious offense. If convicted of a second-degree crime, you could face up to 10 years in prison. Third-degree offenses carry with them jail sentences of between 3 and 5 years. Fourth-degree offenses carry with them up to 18 months imprisonment and, regardless of what degree the offense is, you will always have to perform community service of some kind upon conviction.

You cannot afford to face these charges alone. Here at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we have over 100 years of collective experience defending against criminal charges, including shoplifting charges of all degrees and kinds in Gloucester, Camden City, Cherry Hill, Pennsauken, and Voorhees. So if you or someone you love has been charged with shoplifting in Camden County, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced attorney about the ins and outs of your particular case.