Shoplifting is not something to mess around with in New Jersey. Whether a full-blown heist or simply stealing a pack of gum from the convenience store, shoplifting can land you in prison. The charge can also bolster heavy fines and leave an ugly mark on your criminal record. A thief is a terrible reputation to have, especially in the eyes of a future employer or landlord. Seeing this charge on your record will almost certainly affect future employers or landlord's decisions and likely give them a negative impression of you. Additionally, it is very unlikely someone looking at your criminal record while reading your resume or application will inquire into the charge. Most likely, they will see a “shoplifting” charge and cross your name off the list. Because of this, it is very important to secure legal counsel. Getting caught and charged for stealing a candy bar will cost you more in the long run. That one dollar piece of candy will now cost you thousands in legal fees, fines and lost opportunities.
Shoplifting in New Jersey is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. You will likely be charged with shoplifting if you purposely take a good from a store with the intent to deprive the merchant of possession, conceal a good while in the store (law enforcement officials assume that concealing is intent to deprive), change the price or otherwise alter the good in an attempt to purchase it (or have someone else purchase it) for less money, by under-ringing your purchase, or by stealing a shopping cart. The prosecution must always show the “intent to deprive the merchant” part of the crime or the charge will not stick. In pertinent part, the statute reads:
b. Shoplifting. Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts:
(1) For any person purposely to take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof.
(2) For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.
(3) For any person purposely to alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment and to attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.
(4) For any person purposely to transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail merchandise establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the retail value thereof.
(5) For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof.
(6) For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.
What are the penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey?
The penalties for shoplifting in New Jersey can be more severe than people initially think. The penalties are based on the retail value of the goods stolen, which can add up very quickly.
- $.01 to $200.00: Disorderly Persons Offense.
Fine up to $1,000, maximum of 180 days in jail, community service.
- $200.01 to $500.00: Fourth Degree Crime.
Fine up to $10,000, maximum 18 months in jail, community service.
- $500.01 to $75,000.00: Third Degree Crime.
Fines up to $15,000, 3 to 5 years in jail, community service.
- $75,000.00 or Greater: Second Degree Crime.
Fines up to $150,000, 5 to 10 years in jail, community service.
Are there any defenses to this charge?
Yes, there are legal defenses to a shoplifting charge. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the shoplifter intended to deprive the store/merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the good. This type of defensive strategy will likely work in the situation of the good-Samaritan who accidently walks out of a store without paying for something and can result in total acquittal. But, for the people who actually stole and were caught red handed, getting the charge reduced to a municipal ordinance violation is usually the best solution. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to help you in either scenario. There is no doubt that some people do dumb things and sometimes you cannot dispute your guilt. In situations like these, it is best to take the least severe charge and learn your lesson. At Villani & DeLuca, P.C., we have seen numerous shoplifting charges. We understand how best to poke holes in the prosecution's case and what legal defenses with be effective.