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Shoplifting Charges in Hackensack NJ
Theft Crimes

Last updated on February 19, 2024

Shoplifting Laws in New Jersey

Shoplifting occurs more often than people might think. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the past five years, and even more disturbing is the statistic that there are 27 million shoplifters in the country. Moreover, these numbers continue to grow year after year – even in New Jersey, where there are severe penalties imposed against anyone convicted of shoplifting or retail theft. To speak with a top-rated New Jersey shoplifting lawyer, please contact Lustberg Law Offices, LLC today at (201) 880-5311 to discuss your situation and explore the best possible legal options for your case.

What Is “Shoplifting” in New Jersey?

While shoplifting is generally thought of as the removal of items from a store without paying for them, retail fraud in NJ constitutes a myriad of actions that include:

  • Removing the original packaging and hiding it among other merchandise.
  • Attempting to remove, or removing, security tags.
  • Altering a price tag.
  • Placing an item in your purse, pocket, or body while walking around the store.

Shoplifting Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for shoplifting charges in New Jersey differs based on the value of the stolen items. In instances where the shoplifting offense involves items worth less than $200, it is classified as a disorderly persons offense. In such instances, the statute of limitations is established as one year from the detection of the offense. This means that legal proceedings must be initiated within one year of the offense being uncovered.

However, if the value of the shoplifted goods exceeds $200, the offense is regarded as an indictable offense or a felony. In such situations, the statute of limitations extends to five years, allowing for a longer period for legal action to be taken.

Shoplifting attorney in New Jersey

It is crucial to understand that the statute of limitations refers to the maximum allowable timeframe for filing criminal charges. Once this time period has elapsed, the accused individual generally cannot be prosecuted for that particular offense. 

If you’re dealing with shoplifting charges, it’s important to seek the help of a New Jersey shoplifting lawyer. The Lustberg Law Offices ensures individuals are not charged with an offense outside of the statute of limitations, safeguarding individuals from unfair prosecutions, and that their rights are protected in and out of the court. Feel free to arrange a consultation today in order to pursue the most favorable outcome for your case.

Shoplifting Results in Severe Penalties in New Jersey

In New Jersey, a shoplifting charge, like most theft charges, can result in severe penalties, fines, and even jail time. Shoplifting merchandise with a combined retail value of less than $200 can result in a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Stealing more than $500 worth of merchandise is considered a third-degree crime and can result in 3-5 years of prison time and a fine of up to $15,000. The penalty for shoplifting more than $75,000 worth of merchandise is potential sentence of 5-10 years in NJ state prison. The judge may also require the convicted offender to pay restitution.

Additionally, owners of the retail establishments where the shoplifting occurred can sue the offender for damages in civil court. This includes the value of the merchandise in its original condition up to $500 if not returned, plus any damages that occurred in apprehending the shoplifter, and a $150 penalty.

While it is obvious that the penalties for shoplifting in New Jersey can be severe, first-time offenders may be able to gain entry into a diversion program to get the criminal charges dropped. This includes community service or counseling. Upon successful completion of the diversionary program, the charges against the defendant are dropped.

Shoplifting in New Jersey Penalties and Consequences
Shoplifting merchandise < $200 $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail
Shoplifting merchandise > $500 3-5 years of prison time and a fine of up to $15,000
Shoplifting merchandise > $75,000 Potential sentence of 5-10 years in NJ state prison
Owners can sue for damages in civil court Value of merchandise in its original condition up to $500 if not returned, damages in apprehending the shoplifter, $150 penalty
First-time offenders Potential entry into a diversion program, including community service or counseling. Charges dropped upon successful completion.

Possible Defenses for Shoplifting Charges

There are several common defenses that New Jersey lawyers use in court for shoplifting charges. The first is establishing that there is a reasonable doubt that the police arrested the correct person. It is common to use this type of defense when security cameras are used since it can be difficult to identify specific characteristics of someone onscreen.

Your defense attorney can also use other defenses to show that the shoplifting wasn’t intentional. For example, your child got upset and you accidentally took your shopping cart out of the store. Perhaps you got a serious medical emergency and had to leave the shop quickly. In this case, you might have gotten distracted and walked out of the store without paying for the item. Your attorney will appreciate your honesty and transparency about the entire situation. They will have the most effective chance of creating a strong defense for you if they know the entire story.

If you are facing a shoplifting charge in New Jersey, it is important to seek the legal advice of an experienced shoplifting attorney right away. A lawyer may be able to help you understand your situation and help you prepare a defense for the court. Experienced lawyers are well-versed in dealing with shoplifting charges and they may be able to help you receive a favorable outcome.

Expungement Information

Clearing a shoplifting conviction in New Jersey is possible through expungement, a legal process that seals your criminal records from public view. This action can dramatically enhance your prospects, making it easier to secure employment or housing since most background checks will no longer reveal the expunged charge.

To be eligible for expungement in New Jersey, you must have completed a waiting period of 5 years from the date of your shoplifting conviction, provided it is a disorderly persons offense. It’s crucial to understand that expungement is not automatic. Your petition will undergo judicial review, and the court has the discretion to either grant or deny your request.

Once an expungement is approved, the court orders the removal of your conviction records from public databases, effectively allowing you to legally assert that the conviction did not occur. However, be aware that certain employers, particularly in law enforcement, retain the ability to access expunged records.

Seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney can significantly streamline the process. Legal guidance ensures that you satisfy all requirements and correctly complete the necessary paperwork. The expungement process typically spans 4 to 6 months and incurs costs, including attorney’s fees, in addition to a $75 filing fee.

Though navigating the process may seem daunting, the long-term benefits of expunging shoplifting charges from your record in New Jersey are substantial. A clean slate can unlock new opportunities in your career and educational endeavors, paving the way for a brighter future.

Contact an Experienced Hackensack Shoplifting Attorney Today

Facing a shoplifting charge can have severe consequences, especially in New Jersey. This is why you need the expert advice of the legal team at Lustberg Law in Hackensack, NJ. Skilled Bergen County criminal defense attorney Adam M. Lustberg will fight for your rights and help you get back to your regular life. Contact the law firm today to schedule a free initial consultation.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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