Legal Blog

When Shoplifting Becomes a Felony

Author Clark & Noonan, LLC
Posted February 18, 2021
Category Criminal Defense, Shoplifting

In New Jersey, you can be charged with shoplifting if you are found to have left a store with merchandise without having paid the full value. You can also be charged if you have merchandise concealed on your person, even if you haven’t yet left the store.

Although shoplifting is often seen as a petty crime, in New Jersey, many shoplifting offenses are charged as felony-level crimes known as an “indictable offense”.

New Jersey has some of the strictest shoplifting laws in the country. As a result, if you’ve been charged with shoplifting in New Jersey, you need experienced legal representation to help protect your legal rights and interests in the criminal justice system and to help you pursue a favorable outcome to your charges.

At Clark & Noonan, LLC, our criminal lawyers have extensive experience in the New Jersey criminal justice system. . We bring the experience of knowing what the police and prosecutors do and do not do because we have worked not just as defense attorneys but also began our careers as prosecutors, handling numerous shoplifting and theft cases.

That gives our firm a unique insight into how prosecutors deal with shoplifting cases. We use our knowledge and experience from both sides of the criminal justice system to vigorously pursue the best possible outcome for shoplifting charges.

You don’t have to let a mistaken allegation or an act of desperation cause you to lose your freedom or ruin your future. Although facing the criminal justice system can seem overwhelming, you have options and attorneys willing to fight for you.

Contact us today for a free case review with a New Jersey shoplifting criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. We’ll explain more about your legal rights and options for facing and resolving your shoplifting charges.

Is Shoplifting a Felony in New Jersey?

New Jersey has the lowest felony threshold for shoplifting charges of any state in the country. In New Jersey, stealing property worth $200 or more can lead to the filing as an indictable offense, otherwise known as felony charges.

In addition, if you’re banned from a retail establishment and return to steal merchandise or other property, you might also be subject to a charge of burglary or the unlawful entry of a building with the intent to commit a crime inside.

Shoplifting Penalties in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the penalty for a shoplifting conviction depends on the value of the merchandise or items stolen or attempted to be stolen:

  • Less than $200 – Disorderly persons offense, carrying a potential sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000
  • Between $200 and $500 – Fourth-degree offense (felony), with a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Over $500 but less than $75,000 – Third-degree offense (felony), carrying a three-to-five-year sentence and a fine of up to $15,000
  • $75,000 or more – Second-degree offense (felony), with a prison sentence of five to ten years and a possible fine of up to $150,000

New Jersey law also imposes certain mandatory penalties for shoplifting convictions, depending on how many prior shoplifting convictions you have:

  • First shoplifting offense – At least 10 days of community service
  • Second shoplifting offense – At least fifteen days’ community service
  • Third and subsequent shoplifting offenses – At least 25 days of community service and a mandatory jail sentence of at least 90 days

A shoplifting conviction and resulting criminal record can also impact the rest of your life long after you’ve performed community service or served a jail or prison term and paid fines. Having a criminal record can make it difficult to secure employment or housing or educational opportunities.

Examples of Shoplifting Felony Charges

In New Jersey, many kinds of activity, beyond simply taking merchandise from a store, may constitute shoplifting.

Examples of ways you can be charged with shoplifting in New Jersey include:

  • Carrying merchandise for sale away from a store or retail establishment, with the intent to deprive the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of the merchandise or to not pay the merchant the full retail value for such merchandise.
  • Concealing merchandise for sale upon one’s person with the intent of depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise or not paying the full retail value of such merchandise.
  • Altering, transferring, or removing any price tag, label, or marking with the intent of depriving a merchant of some part or all the value of merchandise.
  • Transferring merchandise for sale from one container to another with the intent to deprive a merchant of some part or all the value of merchandise.
  • Intentionally under-ringing merchandise with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value.
  • Intentionally removing a shopping cart from a retail establishment with the intent to deprive a merchant of its use or value.

When the value of the items involved in the shoplifting exceeds $199.99, you can be charged with a felony-level shoplifting offense.

What to Do If You’re Accused of Shoplifting

If you’ve been accused of or arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey, you need to act quickly to preserve and protect your legal rights and options for defending yourself against criminal charges, especially if you are ultimately charged with felony shoplifting.

  • Do not attempt to physically resist if you are being detained, even by store personnel. Store personnel have the right to detain you on suspicion of shoplifting until law enforcement arrives. If you try to resist being detained or flee the store, you could also face assault or resisting arrest charges.
  • Exercise your right to remain silent. Although you might think that you can talk your way out of a shoplifting charge, you may only end up making admissions that will seal your conviction. Even if you have personal or financial difficulties that may have led you to shoplift, you should let an experienced criminal defense attorney use those circumstances to defend you against shoplifting charges while continuing to protect your rights and interests in the criminal justice system.
  • Contact the criminal defense lawyers of Clark & Noonan, LLC for a free, confidential consultation to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys about your legal rights and options and to learn more about how we can help you with your shoplifting charges in New Jersey.