Shoplifting occurs when someone tries to steal an item from a store or change/hide its value. Shoplifting offenses can range from a disorderly person’s offense all the way up to a second-degree crime, depending on the value of the stolen items. Penalties range from community service to fines to jail time. If you are facing shoplifting charges, the first step is to hire a New Jersey shoplifting attorney to defend you in court. An experienced attorney can help you have charges downgraded or potentially dropped. Check out five things you need to know about shoplifting laws in New Jersey.
What is Shoplifting?
New Jersey Statute 2C:20-11 defines shoplifting to include the following:
- Purposely taking an item from a store or retail establishment without paying the full retail value. An example of this would be putting on a shirt in a dressing room and then walking out wearing it without paying.
- Concealing an item taken from a store or retail establishment. For example, someone hides an electronic in their purse to hide it from employees as they leave the store.
- Attempting to alter, remove, or transfer a price tag on an item to get it for less than its value. An example would be switching the price tag of two items to get something for a lower price.
- Transferring displayed merchandise to another container with the intent to undervalue the product. For example, switching a piece of merchandise to a bin with lower-priced items to trick store employees into giving it to you for a reduced price.
As you can see, shoplifting charges include more than simply walking out of a store with an item. Transferring price tags or merchandise displays are also forms of shoplifting.
Different Levels of Shoplifting Charges
Shoplifting is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the stolen item/items. Any items valued over $200 fall under the felony class. Penalties depend on which charge you receive.
Disorderly Person’s Offense: A disorderly person’s charge applies if the value of the item is less than $200.
Fourth-Degree Crime: When the value of the item is between $200 and $500.
Third-Degree Crime: When the value of the item is between $500 and $75,000.
Second-Degree Crime: When the value of the item is greater than $75,000.
There are many ways shoplifting can lead to an arrest. Often, an employee catches the person in the act and calls the police. Other times, the perpetrator can be seen through reviewing security camera footage. But remember, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you have the right to an attorney. The best thing you can do is request an attorney be present before you start answering questions.
Organized Retail Theft
Sometimes a shoplifting crime goes further than one person stealing an item from a store. An organized retail theft enterprise is a group of criminals led by a supervisor working together to commit various shoplifting crimes. Being the leader of an organized retail theft operation is considered a second-degree crime. At the time of arrest, the leader can be fined up to $250,000 or five times the value of the stolen merchandise, whichever number is greater. As the leader of an organized crime ring, you are at risk of receiving a harsher charge and penalties than an individual shoplifter working alone would.
Potential Defenses in Court
After a shoplifting charge, the first step is to hire an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney. An attorney will work with you to understand the details of the situation and come up with a defense to use in court. Experienced attorneys like Leon Matchin have many examples of success where shoplifting charges have been downgraded to a lesser grade of crime or entirely dismissed.
There are several common defenses that can be used in court.
First, there’s establishing a reasonable doubt that the police arrested the correct person. This is a common defense when security cameras are used, as it makes it challenging to pick out specific features of a person onscreen.
Other defenses attempt to prove that the shoplifting was accidental. For example, maybe your child was upset, and you distractedly walked out of a store without paying for your item. Or perhaps a medical emergency came up, and you had to rush out of the store and didn’t even realize you were stealing something in the process. Make sure you are 100% honest and transparent with your attorney about the situation and events leading up to it. Knowing the whole story gives your attorney the best chance to create a solid defense.
New Jersey Shoplifting Cases
Shoplifting is a common charge in the state of New Jersey. Depending on the value of the items stolen, it can be charged as a disorderly person’s offense all the way up to a second-degree crime. Organized retail theft by an enterprise is also a shoplifting charge. Penalties for shoplifting range from community service to fines to jail time, depending on the grade of the crime. By working with an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney like Leon Matchin, you have the chance to have charges downgraded or entirely dropped.
For more information about shoplifting charges, reach out to Leon Matchin. Contact Leon by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]. He will set up a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and go over your options.