Why Am I Being Charged Twice for the Same Shoplifting Offense?
Wall New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys serving Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County and all surrounding NJ areas.
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 732-303-7857 to speak with one of our 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?
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’t I Just Ignore the Civil Penalty?
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 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 732-303-7857 to set up your free consultation.