Table of Contents
- New Jersey Shoplifting Law
- Grading of a Shoplifting Offense
- Penalties for Shoplifting
- Pretrial Intervention & Conditional Dismissal
- Immigration Consequences
- Organized Retail Theft Enterprise
- Possession of Shoplifting Devices
- Shoplifting Turned Robbery
- Contact Our Highly Skilled Shoplifting Lawyers in New Jersey
A criminal charge for shoplifting is much more serious than you might believe. Whether a shoplifting retail theft involves a second-degree, third-degree or fourth-degree crime, or even a disorderly persons offense, a conviction results in a record that can impact your life for many years to come—not to mention penalties that always include the possibility of incarceration. Selecting an attorney with the skill to ensure that you have every chance of escaping a conviction is your best weapon in defending a shoplifting charge in New Jersey.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has a team of lawyers with the experience and skill to win your NJ shoplifting case. We can make this statement because our record of success is not only extensive but because we possess qualifications that are truly exceptional, including:
- Over 200 years of combined experience representing clients charged with shoplifting throughout New Jersey
- A team of 10 attorneys that specialize exclusively in defending individuals arrested or issued a criminal complaint for violating the law
- Former county and municipal prosecutors that have served throughout the state in positions such as Director of the Major Crimes Bureau, Juvenile Division, Economic Crimes and even an entire Trial Division
- Certified criminal trial attorneys
- Decades of success defending US citizens, permanent residents (i.e. green card) and conditional residents (i.e. visa holder) who have been accused of shoplifting
Do not be foolish and settle for representation by an attorney with limited experience. Give us a call to speak to lawyers who have successfully defended and even tried thousands of shoplifting charges in New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 1-877-328-0980.
Frequently Asked Questions
A merchant or lost prevention officer may detain a shoplifting suspect for a reasonable period and in a reasonable manner provided they possess probable cause to believe that the individual violated 2C:20-11. Whether the detention is reasonable is a matter to be determined by the court. If the court finds that the detention was unreasonable, criminal and/or civil charges may result.
Although NJ does not use the term felony or misdemeanor, the general rule is that any criminal offense that carries the potential for more than six months of incarceration is a felony. Accordingly, you are exposed to a felony if you are facing a second, third or fourth degree crime for shoplifting. A disorderly persons offense (i.e. shoplifting of merchandise with a value of less than $200) is a misdemeanor.
A disorderly person offense is heard in the municipal court of the town where the shoplifting allegedly took place. Indictable shoplifting charges can only be heard at the Superior Court; this is where your case will be heard if you have been charged with a second, third or fourth degree crime.
It certainly isn’t a requirement that someone goes to jail or prison for committing shoplifting. The result achieved in your case in terms of probation, PTI, conditional discharge or even incarceration, will depend on your prior record, the facts surrounding your arrest and the skill of your attorney.
New Jersey Shoplifting Law
The offense of shoplifting is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. This law outlines six types of conduct that constitutes shoplifting, including:
- Purposely taking possession of merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of its value;
- Concealing merchandise
- Altering, transferring or removing a label or price tag in order to purchase the merchandise for less than its true value
- Transferring the box or container of merchandise to deprive the merchant of the full value of the goods
- Under-ring merchandise
- Removing a shopping cart from the property of a merchant.
It is worth noting that an individual can only be convicted of a New Jersey shoplifting offense under any of these scenarios if their conduct is purposeful, meaning that they intended to deprive the merchant of the goods or their true value.
Grading of a Shoplifting Offense
A common question of individuals arrested for shoplifting is how is the severity, commonly referred to as grade of offense, determined in New Jersey? The grading of a shoplifting charge is determined by the value of the merchandise stolen.
- If the full retail value of the items stolen is $75,000 or more, shoplifting is a second-degree crime.
- It is a third-degree crime to commit shoplifting of merchandise with a value of at least $500 but less than $75,000.
- If the value of the goods is at least $200 but less than $500, shoplifting results in a fourth-degree crime.
- Shoplifting is a disorderly person offense where the value of the merchandise is less than $200.
You should also know that individual acts of shoplifting may be aggregated so that the sum of the thefts dictate the grade of shoplifting offense. Aggregation is permitted when a defendant engages in a “continuing course of conduct” involving shoplifting. For example, if an individual is arrested for shoplifting items from four different stores at the mall during the course of the same afternoon, the prosecutor can add up the retail value of all the items stolen to arrive at the grade of the charge.
Penalties for Shoplifting
We are certain that one of the biggest questions that you have is what are the penalties that may be imposed in New Jersey for shoplifting? The answer depends on the grade of shoplifting offense charged in your case.
Disorderly Persons Offense. When someone is charged with a disorderly person offense for shoplifting, they face up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Fourth Degree Shoplifting. A fourth-degree crime for shoplifting results in up to 18 months in prison and a fine that can reach $10,000.
Third Degree Shoplifting. A third-degree crime for shoplifting, the most common felony grade, carries up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Second Degree Shoplifting. The penalties include 5-10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine when shoplifting is a second-degree crime.
Mandatory Jail for Repeat Offenders. You should also know that there is a mandatory jail term of 90 days upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense.
In addition, the shoplifting statute mandates community service for a first offense, second offense, and third offense. A defendant must perform 10 days of community service for a first offense. For a second offense, there are 15 days of community service. The period of community service is 25 days for a third or subsequent conviction for shoplifting.
You should also know that a merchant may seek a civil penalty if they believe you are guilty of shoplifting. This is typically assessed in the amount of $150. The merchant is also entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and costs incurred to collect this sum in the event that payment is not made.
Given the penalties for shoplifting, it is of utmost importance that you hire a criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid the many pitfalls that surround this area of the law. Each and every lawyer at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is experienced in handling shoplifting charges in NJ including Bergen County, Monmouth County, Hudson County, Camden County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Somerset County, Essex County, Mercer County, and Burlington County.
Pretrial Intervention & Conditional Dismissal
There are two NJ diversion programs that allow an individual to avoid a conviction for shoplifting. Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) applies where a first-time offender is facing a fourth-degree or third-degree crime for shoplifting. A similar program applies to disorderly persons offenses and it is referred to as Conditional Dismissal.
As a general rule, the defendant must complete one year of probation and, up0n successful completion, the original shoplifting charge is dismissed. There is no requirement that the accused enter a plea as a prerequisite to entry into PTI whereas a plea must be placed on the record before someone can be admitted into Conditional Dismissal.
There are collateral consequences beyond the penalties previously described when an alleged shoplifter isn’t a United States citizen. The possibility of added ramifications exists in the event that a defendant falls within one of the following three categories of immigration status:
- A permanent resident is someone who lacks citizenship but holds a green card that allows them to live and work in the country permanently.
- An individual can also be a temporary resident by virtue of a student visa, dependant visa, or travel visa.
- Lastly, a defendant can have no immigration status because they entered the country illegally or as the result of a lapse in status (e.g. expired green card or visa).
The fear is that an individual will be removed, deported, or denied admission into the country by virtue of a shoplifting conviction when they lack citizenship.
The threat of deportation or denial of entry stems from the fact that federal immigration law considers shoplifting a crime involving moral turpitude. Two convictions for a crime involving moral turpitude renders a non-citizen with status (i.e. permanent or temporary resident) removable/deportable. An individual may also be deported if they are convicted of a fourth-degree, third-degree, or second-degree crime for shoplifting within five (5) years of admission.
You should also know that a shoplifting conviction can render a person inadmissible to the United States. This bar to re-entry applies if a noncitizen is convicted for a fourth, third, or second-degree crime for shoplifting. Inadmissibility in this manner does not apply, however, where the conviction is for a petty offense under federal immigration law. A conviction falls under the petty offense exception if the maximum period of incarceration is one year or less and the actual sentence imposed is less than six months. What we are essentially referring to is a disorderly person offense for shoplifting.
Organized Retail Theft Enterprise
Participation in a organized retail theft enterprise, which is defined as two or more persons associated in order to transfer shoplifted merchandise, is also illegal in New Jersey. It is a second-degree crime for a member of a retail theft enterprise to possess or transfer stolen property with a value exceeding $1,000. It is a third-degree crime where the merchandise value is $1,000 or less.
Another way to be convicted for a second-degree crime in this setting is to serve as the leader of an organized retail theft enterprise. Someone acts in this capacity if they conspire with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager, to engage for profit in a scheme or course of conduct to effectuate the transfer or sale of shoplifted merchandise.
If you are facing an organized retail theft charge anywhere in the state, you are probably facing 5-10 years in prison absent a successful defense. Stakes as dire as these require the very best NJ shoplifting defense lawyer you can find.
Possession of Shoplifting Devices
Possession of devices designed to facilitate retail theft or detection by merchants is illegal in NJ. Examples of devices falling within this prohibition include things that demagnetize merchandise security tags, devices that change the bar code on merchandise price tags, and any other implements whose purpose is to subvert anti-shoplifting countermeasures. If found guilty of possession of this type of material, you subject to a disorderly persons offense, up to 6 months in the county jail, fines, community service, and other penalties.
Shoplifting Turned Robbery
It is often a shocker to individuals to learn that they are being prosecuted for robbery, a much more serious crime, when their conduct was largely a retail theft in nature. This enhancement occurs if the accused uses any force whatsoever to obtain merchandise, flee the store, or escape apprehension. The problem when this occurs is that the theft then becomes a second-degree crime for robbery.
Second-degree robbery carries 5-10 and a $150,000. In addition, the No Early Release Act applies in robbery cases, requiring that a defendant serve at least 85% of any prison sentence imposed before they may be considered for parole. If you have been charged with robbery because of an incident that occurred when you attempted to shoplift, you definitely want to contact an experienced NJ criminal lawyer immediately.
Contact Our Highly Skilled Shoplifting Attorneys in New Jersey
If you have been charged with shoplifting and are in need of a lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact our criminal defense law firm with any questions or to arrange for a free consultation. We have a highly skilled retail theft attorney to handle your shoplifting case and to mount a defense that will thoroughly protect you against a conviction. Call one of our law offices today to speak to a talented lawyer on our team. Our lawyers will be happy to answer your questions and advise you on how we can help you move on with your life without a criminal record and other penalties for shoplifting. You may also consider consulting our NJ Shoplifting Defense Attorneys online for more information on the law associated with shoplifting offenses.