Call 24/7 to Book a Free Consultation (732) 709-7757

NJ Shoplifting Lawyers

Charged with Shoplifting in New Jersey? Protect Your Rights With a Strong Defense

Getting arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey can be a daunting experience where you find yourself grappling with a range of emotions and uncertainties. What are the immediate and long-term consequences? How might a shoplifting charge affect your future?

It's important to understand that shoplifting is taken seriously in the Garden State, with potentially severe penalties. However, it's also crucial to remember that being charged is not the same as being convicted. You have the right to defend yourself and an experienced lawyer can help. Knowledge is power – in this challenging time, being informed with a clear understanding of New Jersey's shoplifting laws is your first step toward a strong defense.

Shoplifting Laws in New Jersey

What happens if you shoplift in New Jersey? Can you go to jail for shoplifting in the Garden State? What kind of sentence can you expect for this type of charge?

New Jersey law defines shoplifting as a crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11:

You can be convicted of shoplifting if you knowingly take possession, transport, or transfer any merchandise without paying the full retail price. Shoplifting also applies if you alter product labels or price tags or “under-ring” your items when checking out.

The severity of the charge and the penalties you face will depend on the retail value of the stolen items as well as the number of shoplifting offenses you already have on your record.

The following shoplifting charges are considered indictable offenses in New Jersey and will be handled at the County Superior Court level:

  • 2nd Degree Shoplifting – The most severe form of shoplifting is a second-degree crime if the total value of the merchandise adds up to more than $75,000. In New Jersey, a second-degree crime conviction carries a penalty of 5-10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $150,000, in addition to any restitution or civil damages you may be required to pay.

  • 3rd Degree Shoplifting – If the merchandise totals more than $500 but less than $75,000, your penalty could be 3-5 years of imprisonment and/or up to a $15,000 fine.

4th Degree Shoplifting – For offenses with a total merchandise value of more than $200 but less than $500, you could face up to 18 months in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

 If your shoplifting charges are non-indictable, they will be handled in the Municipal Court of the town where the alleged theft occurred, as they are considered disorderly persons offenses and have less severe consequences:

  • Disorderly Persons Offense – If the total retail value of the shoplifted items is less than $200, you could be charged with a disorderly persons-level shoplifting offense. This lesser charge can result in up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

New Jersey courts will also impose additional mandatory penalties such as community service. A first-offense disorderly person's shoplifting conviction includes a minimum of 10 days of community service; for a second offense, you will be required to complete at least 15 days of community service.  If you're facing your third or subsequent  shoplifting offense you may face a mandatory minimum of 90 days of imprisonment and be required to perform a maximum of 25 days of community service.

Does Shoplifting Stay on Your Record in New Jersey?

Yes. A shoplifting conviction can stay on your New Jersey criminal record permanently. The only way to get a shoplifting conviction removed from your record in New Jersey is to take action and file for expungement after a minimum of five years has passed for a disorderly person shoplifting conviction, or six years have passed for an indictable shoplifting conviction.

An experienced defense attorney can help you get your records expunged when the time comes, but the best opportunity to defend yourself is before the court rules and convicts you. That means talking to a lawyer and getting started on your case as soon as possible.

What are Possible Defenses for Shoplifting?

The strongest defense against a shoplifting charge depends on the unique circumstances of each case. The only way to know what strategy might work for your specific situation is to talk to a New Jersey defense attorney about your legal options.

Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may argue one or more of the following:

  • Evidence Issues – The evidence against you is insufficient, incorrect, or has been mishandled in a way that makes it inadmissible. For example, questioning the accuracy of surveillance footage or eyewitness testimony, or establishing that the value of the items you allegedly stole is much lower than charged.

  • Lack of Intent – Whatever “taking” you did was unintentional or accidental. For example, you accidentally left a store with an item because you got distracted, or your child took an item without understanding the implications.

  • Mistaken Identity or False Accusation – You were incorrectly identified or wrongly accused of being the perpetrator of the theft. To support this, you can present an alibi that places you elsewhere at the time of the alleged offense, or highlight inconsistencies in witness descriptions that don't match your appearance.

  • Improper Police Procedures – There was a violation of your rights during the arrest or investigation. For example, the police can't show probable cause for your arrest or the arresting officers failed to read your Miranda rights at the appropriate time.

  • Duress or Coercion – You were forced to commit the act by someone else under threat or duress. You acted because you feared harm to yourself or others.

In addition, your attorney may be able to negotiate lesser charges – for example, by getting you a plea deal or reducing your charges from an indictable shoplifting offense down to a disorderly person's offense. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea to a different charge as plea bargaining is generally permitted in these types of cases. This may be an option if you're a first-time offender with no prior criminal record, or there's some evidence against you but your situation calls for leniency because of extenuating circumstances.

A first-time offender may be entitled to a diversionary program like a conditional dismissal for a disorderly persons level charge or Pretrial Intervention (PTI) for an indictable charge. 

These general strategies may not apply to every situation, but a qualified defense lawyer can help you determine the best options for you based on the specifics of your case. Your attorney can evaluate the evidence, guide you through the legal process, and build your defense.

Third offenses are very serious and can result in mandatory jail. Can You Get a Shoplifting Charge Dismissed in New Jersey?

While it is possible to get a shoplifting charge dismissed in New Jersey, the outcome of your case depends on various factors such as the evidence against you, your criminal history, and the circumstances of the alleged offense

 Your options for dismissal might include:

  • Participating in a pre-trial intervention program, especially for first-time offenders 

  • Factually demonstrating your innocence beyond a reasonable doubt

  • Your attorney establishing weaknesses in the prosecution's case

A knowledgeable defense attorney can guide you through the legal process and advocate on your behalf. Facing a shoplifting charge in New Jersey can undoubtedly be a stressful and challenging experience. The most important thing you can do to protect your record and your future is to find an experienced defense lawyer who can look out for your best interests.

At Villani & DeLuca, we can help. Contact us now to book your free consultation.

Contact Us Today

Villani & DeLuca, P.C. is committed to answering your questions about Divorce & Family Law, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, and DWI & Traffic Law issues in New Jersey. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.