Under New Jersey shoplifting laws, you could be found guilty of shoplifting if you have been found to be in possession of a store’s merchandise after exiting the store without paying for it. There is also a presumption under New Jersey law that you were shoplifting if the merchandise is concealed on your person. If this is the case, the evidence is certainly not stacked in your favor, however, that does not mean that your case is lost, or that your intent doesn’t matter.
For example, if you put an item into your pocket to free your hands while wrestling with a toddler and forgot about the item, but you were not actually intending to steal the item, then under the law you are not guilty of shoplifting.
Prosecution for Shoplifting Charges in New Jersey
It’s important to remember that the burden is always on the State to prove you are guilty, and that’s why having one of our New Jersey shoplifting defense attorneys on your case matters. A careful evaluation of the evidence, which often includes video surveillance, police reports, and store loss prevention reports, as well as some specific personal facts about you that show you have no monetary-need to steal, can provide a compelling defense or show a clear deficiency in the State’s case.
Store employees are allowed to detain someone for a reasonable amount of time if they are suspected of shoplifting while store security or the police are contacted, but they may not use unreasonable force to detain someone. If you have been charged with shoplifting, our defense attorneys will take the time to evaluate all aspects of your case and work hard to protect your record, and bring it to the most favorable conclusion for you. Please call 732-333-3011 for a free consultation.
Trying to Cheat a Store by Tampering with Price Tags is Shoplifting in New Jersey
The crime of shoplifting also includes switching price tags or attempting to alter a price tag to avoid paying the price as marked by the merchant. You may also be charged with the crime of shoplifting if you remove an item from its package or container and put it into another package to try and avoid paying the true cost.
Stealing a Shopping Cart is Shoplifting in New Jersey
If you leave a store’s property or parking lot with a shopping cart without intending to return it, you can also be charged with shoplifting.
What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the penalties for shoplifting are related to the full retail value of the merchandise that was stolen:
- Disorderly Persons Offense. If the full retail value is less than $200 you can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to 6 months of imprisonment.
- 4th Degree Shoplifting. If the full retail value is between $200 and $500 you can be fined up to $10,000 and be sentenced for up to 18 months of imprisonment.
- 3rd Degree Shoplifting. If the full retail value is over $500 but less than $75,000 you can be fined up to $15,000 and sentenced for 3-5 years of imprisonment.
- 2nd Degree Shoplifting. Full retail value is $75,000 or more, you can be fined up to $150,000 and sentenced to 5-10 years of imprisonment.
Additional mandatory penalties for convictions of shoplifting include:
- For a first shoplifting offense you can be sentenced to at least 10 days of community service;
- If you are convicted of a second shoplifting offense, you can be sentenced to at least 15 days of community service; and
- If you are convicted a third time (or more) you can receive up to 25 days of community service and imprisonment for not less than 90 days.
The shoplifting defense attorneys of Clark & Noonan, LLC understand the situation you are in. It may help to know that prosecutors aren’t always as interested in sticking you in jail as they may sound. We should know. Two of our attorneys each worked for more than 12 years as prosecutors for Monmouth County, where they handled hundreds of theft, burglary, and shoplifting charges.
Why Did I Get a Notice in the Mail Asking Me to Pay a $150 Civil Penalty for a Shoplifting Charge?
If you have been arrested for shoplifting, in addition to the criminal charges, it is common for stores to hire a civil attorney to send you a notice asking you pay $150.00 civil penalty. It’s important to remember that a notice like this cannot be just ignored, but simply paying the $150.00 may not only be unnecessary, it may be harmful to your criminal case.
That’s why when you receive a notice like this it is important for you to call our office at 732-333-3011 to speak with one of our New Jersey shoplifting attorneys who can evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine whether and when you should pay the fine.
Isn’t This Prosecution in Two Separate Courts? Wouldn’t That Be Considered Double Jeopardy?
No. Under both the Federal and New Jersey Constitutions there is a constitutional prohibition from being prosecuted for the same crime twice called double jeopardy. Unfortunately, in the shoplifting context double jeopardy only applies to criminal prosecution, and does not bar a parallel civil proceeding for money damages that may have been incurred by the victim of a crime.
Specifically in New Jersey, under N.J.S.A. 2A: 61C-1, a person convicted of shoplifting is liable for a separate $150.00 civil penalty, to be paid to the victim of the shoplifting, (namely the store whose merchandise was allegedly taken). In addition to the civil penalty, the “victim” is also entitled to recover up to $500 for any property damage that resulted from the alleged shoplifting. This law also provides a basis for these fines and penalties to be applied to the parents of a juvenile convicted of shoplifting.
Can I Ignore The Civil Penalty For Shoplifting in New Jersey?
The problem with ignoring the civil penalty is that you may eventually be dragged into civil court and be forced to pay the victim’s civil attorney’s legal fees. Whether you can be held to pay the store’s lawyer’s fees will depend on two key factors: (1) you must have been convicted of shoplifting; and (2) the store must has proven it served you with a demand for payment of the civil penalty/property damage claim, and that you either failed to respond or rejected that demand within twenty days of receiving their notification.
If you have been arrested for shoplifting or have received a civil penalty notice in the mail our shoplifting attorneys are available to give you a free consultation and best advise you on a way forward based on the facts of your individual case. Call 732-333-3011 to set up your free consultation.
What to Do If You’re Accused of Shoplifting in New Jersey
Being charged with shoplifting is a serious offense that can have long-lasting consequences. If you have been falsely accused of shoplifting in New Jersey, you need to act promptly to enforce your legal rights. You need a shoplifting defense lawyer at Clark & Noonan, LLC.
While shoplifting is often considered a petty crime, some theft offenses can actually be charged as felonies, leading to a prison sentence of a year or more. You don’t want to go to court alone when so much is at stake. A skilled shoplifting attorney can build a strong case that refutes the allegations and protects your reputation and future opportunities.
Here are some tips on what to do if you’ve been accused of stealing from a store:
Don’t flee store security.
Before law enforcement is involved, you may be stopped by unarmed mall security or private security guards. If you are confronted by store security, you may be tempted to flee. Don’t. If your detention is deemed to be illegal, you can challenge this guard’s actions in court. But if you run away from security officers, this can be considered evidence of guilt.
Remain calm and silent.
Many store policies state that you must have been observed concealing or otherwise stealing an item in order to be accused and detained. Typically, the individual must have seen you pick up the item in the store so that you cannot claim to have walked in the retailer with it already in your possession.
If you are accused of shoplifting in New Jersey, limit the information you share other than stating your name. Exercise your right to remain silent. Never admit to or confess to shoplifting. Be respectful but don’t incriminate yourself.
If you are handed over to the police by store security, you might feel the need to offer an explanation. Anything you say could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. If the police start questioning you, invoke your right to an attorney. After you say this, the police questioning should cease.
Be familiar with “shopkeeper’s privilege.”
Shopkeeper’s privilege is a law recognized in New Jersey that gives merchants the privilege to detain an accused shoplifter on the store grounds. The store owner or manager must have probable cause for detaining the suspect. They may only detain the alleged shoplifter for a reasonable amount of time. Shopkeepers have to be careful in exercising the privilege so that they avoid the alleged shoplifter claiming that they were falsely arrested or imprisoned.
Mistakes happen on both sides of the register.
A store owner or manager could have made an honest mistake and thought they witnessed shoplifting. If you have a receipt or other evidence available, show it to the manager. If they continue to accuse you, you should invoke your right to remain silent so that something you say isn’t later used against you.
Hire an experienced shoplifting defense attorney.
If you are accused of shoplifting in New Jersey, an experienced shoplifting defense attorney will explain the charges and potential penalties you are facing. An attorney will ensure you fully understand the evidence the prosecution needs to prove for a conviction.In addition to informing you of everything relevant to your case, a shoplifting attorney will work to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced.
A shoplifting lawyer can also represent you in court if the case does not settle before trial. A skilled trial lawyer will know how to build a strong case and what it takes to sway a jury in your favor.
A qualified New Jersey shoplifting lawyer will also dive into the details of the shoplifting case to ensure none of your rights were violated. For example, if the police perform searches or seizures without probable cause, this is unconstitutional, and your case could be dismissed.
New Jersey Shoplifting FAQs
How Long After a Shoplifting Accusation Can You Be Charged in New Jersey?
You may be charged with shoplifting at any point in time after the offense was allegedly committed. In fact, you can be charged up to a year after the alleged offense was committed.
Will I Receive a Court Summons for a Shoplifting Charge in New Jersey?
If you are to be charged with shoplifting or another form of theft, the court will summon you to appear and answer a complaint. You will need to come to court on the designated date and time. It is in your best interest to be represented by a criminal defense attorney at this proceeding.
What Do I Do If Police Contact Me About Retail Theft?
If you are contacted by the police and they want to talk to you about this incident, this means that they may suspect you committed a crime. You need to be careful about what you do from this point on.
Tell the officer that you will not answer any questions without the advice of an attorney. If the police officer asks you to go to the police station, you should go. The biggest mistake that some people make is that they believe that they can talk themselves out of a situation. Sometimes, without the benefit of legal counsel, they talk themselves into deeper trouble.
Is Shoplifting a Felony in New Jersey?
In some cases, shoplifting is considered by the courts to be a felony. In terms of grading, the degree of shoplifting charges is highly variable. The primary determinant of the degree of a shoplifting offense is the dollar value of the merchandise at issue.
Contact Our New Jersey Shoplifting Attorneys Today
For a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney, contact us by filling out the form on this page or calling 732-333-3011 today. We can explain charges and possible outcomes. We know the system; we know the law – and we know how to help with your defense.