In New Jersey, shoplifting can range from a disorderly persons offense up to a second-degree crime. Potential penalties for shoplifting include mandatory jail time, fines and community service. Penalties are required by law to increase with every conviction. An adult or juvenile charged with shoplifting needs qualified legal representation to avoid excessive penalties and mitigate the damage a shoplifting charge can cause to you and your family.
Shoplifting in New Jersey (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11)
Shoplifting is generally defined as taking merchandise from a business without the intent to pay, although someone does not have to physically leave the store with the item for it to be alleged shoplifting. Concealing merchandise while in the store as well as possessing or using a device to disable electronic detection may indicate intent to shoplift.
The following conduct is considered shoplifting in New Jersey:
- You purposely conceal or take possession of any merchandise offered for sale by any store with the intention of depriving the store owner of the use or benefit of such merchandise;
- You purposely alter, transfer, or remove any label or price tag of any merchandise offered for sale by any store in an attempt to purchase such merchandise for less than the full retail value;
- You transfer any merchandise offered by sale in any store from its container to another container with the intent of depriving the store owner of all or some part of the retail value of such merchandise;
- You under-ring the value of merchandise offered by sale in any store with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value; or
- You remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store without the consent of the store owner with the intent of permanently depriving the store owner of the use or benefit of such cart.
How Does Merchandise Value Affect Shoplifting Penalties?
Penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the item(s), as shoplifting more expensive merchandise results in a higher degree of charge. Penalties can include imprisonment, a fine, and/or community service. Shoplifting charges are graded as follows:
- Second Degree Shoplifting: The retail value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more. It is punishable by a fine of up to $150,000 and/or imprisonment of five to 10 years.
- Third Degree Shoplifting: The retail value of the merchandise is between $500 and $75,000. The charge can result in a fine of up to $15,000 and/or a three to five-year prison sentence.
- Fourth Degree: The retail value of the merchandise is between $200 and $500. The charge is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of no more than 18 months.
- Disorderly Persons: The retail value of the merchandise is less than $200. It is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a prison sentence of no more than six months.
Shoplifting penalties can also be downgraded to lower charges, depending on the circumstances of the case and the person’s prior record. While most shoplifting offenses are heard in the Municipal Court, they also can be heard in the Superior Court.
How Do Penalties Differ Between a First and Shoplifting Second Offense?
The severity of penalties increases with each additional shoplifting offense. Regardless of the level of the shoplifting charge, a shoplifting conviction also includes a mandatory sentencing of community service.
- First offense: at least 10 days of community service.
- Second Offense: at least 15 days of community service.
- Third or Subsequent offense: at least 25 days of community service and serve a minimum term of imprisonment of 90 days.
Civil Penalties for Shoplifting
New Jersey allows victims of shoplifting (store owners) to impose civil penalties on those who shoplift from them. The law allows a civil penalty up to $150.00 to be assessed against individuals who steal from a merchant, according to N.J.S.A. 2A:61C-1. The victim is also entitled to recover for damage or loss of property, not to exceed $500.00 as well as additional damages, if any, arising from the incident.
These civil penalties extend to the parents of a juvenile who commits a shoplifting offense. However, the penalties shall not apply to a parent whose parental custody and control of such minor has been removed by court order, decree, judgment, military service, or marriage.
A merchant is also entitled to recovery of his or her reasonable attorneys’ fees in securing the civil relief. N.J.S.A. 2A:61C-1. A victim cannot recover attorneys’ fees unless: (1) the defendant has been convicted of shoplifting; and (2) the defendant was served with a demand for payment and failed to respond or rejected the demand within 20 days of notification.
Shoplifting Penalties for Minors
Those under 18 may not experience the same legal consequences as adults for shoplifting. The charges likely will be processed through the juvenile justice system. They will be aimed at preventing future criminal conduct as opposed to only mandating heavy fines or time in a juvenile detention facility, especially for less severe charges. Instead, minors may be required to pay restitution for the stolen merchandise, perform community service, or be put on probation for six months.
Burlington County Shoplifting Defense Lawyer
Burlington County Criminal Defense Law Firm Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates has the experience to successfully defend clients against shoplifting charges and knows that a conviction for a shoplifting offense cannot be taken lightly. Contact one of our Burlington County Shoplifting Defense Lawyers at Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates for a free consultation about your defense and how to eliminate or reduce the negative consequences of a shoplifting charge.