A conviction of shoplifting, while seemingly a juvenile charge, can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s life. New Jersey carries harsh penalties for shoplifting and a conviction can drastically impact a person’s life, their family, and limit their opportunities even after their sentence has been served.
As soon as you are accused of shoplifting, it is crucial to seek the help of an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney who can help inform you of your options and develop a defense strategy against your charges. At Lustberg Law Offices, LLC., top-rated New Jersey theft attorney Adam M. Lustberg provides quality, tailored legal solutions and strategies to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. To learn more about how we can help, call us at (201) 880-5311 to schedule a consultation.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting in New Jersey does not only refer to illegally acquiring merchandise through nonpayment. In New Jersey, the following actions also constitute shoplifting under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11:
- When a person hides store merchandise to deprive the merchant of its use to acquire the item into their possession without paying its monetary value
- When a person hides, alters, or removes the price tag on a product to avoid paying its total retail value
- When a person switches or transfers merchandise into other containers to obtain a lower price
- When a store staff or employee intentionally undercharges merchandise to deprive the merchant of getting the total retail value
- When a person steals a shopping cart from a store
The degree of charges and the subsequent penalties a person can receive if convicted can range from a disorderly persons offense to a second-degree crime. As with some other crimes of theft in New Jersey, the charge depends on the monetary amount of the merchandise stolen.
- Less than $200 – Disorderly Persons Offense. Punishable by up to 6 months in jail
- More than $200 but less than $500 – Fourth-degree Shoplifting. Punishable by up to 18 months in jail.
- More than $500 but less than $75,000 – Third-degree Shoplifting. Punishable by up to three to five years in prison.
- More than $75,000 – Second-degree Shoplifting. Punishable by up to 18 months in jail.
In addition to the mentioned penalties, a person convicted of shoplifting can also face probation, expensive fines, and the suspension of their driver’s license. Depending on their criminal history, community service can also be imposed. As a crime of moral turpitude, people who have been accused of shoplifting can also face long-standing effects that can harm their career prospects, reputation, and personal life.
Statute of Limitations of Shoplifting
The statute of limitations on a shoplifting charge in New Jersey depends on the degree of the charge. For goods valued at less than $200, which is a disorderly persons offense, the statute of limitations is one year from the date the offense was discovered. For goods valued over $200, the statute of limitations is five years. This is due to the fact that shoplifting merchandise over $200 is an indictable offense.
Even if the store where a person is accused of shoplifting lets them go, they may still be able to file charges or otherwise seek compensation for the alleged offense.
Civil Penalties for Shoplifting
In New Jersey, victims of shoplifting, namely the stores whose merchandise was allegedly misappropriated, are allowed to impose civil penalties on the alleged shoplifters under N.J.S.A. 2A:61C-1. This is notably different from criminal penalties a person can face under the law.
A civil penalty of up to $150 can be imposed on individuals who allegedly stole from a merchant. A penalty for loss of property and damages, those that do not exceed $400, may be levied on the alleged perpetrator. If a minor committed the alleged offense, their parents may be held liable for paying the penalties.
Merchants can also be entitled to collect recompense for their attorney’s fees for services rendered in securing civil relief. However, this would only apply under certain circumstances:
- If the defendant is convicted of shoplifting
- If the defendant was served the demand letter for civil relief but failed to respond or ignored the demand for 20 days.
When a person receives a demand letter in the mail for civil relief, it can be tempting to just pay the amount requested to get over the matter quickly. While this may be a reasonable thing to do, in some cases, it may still be possible for a prosecutor to file additional criminal charges in some cases. It is important to get the help of an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney before making any decisions. A skilled attorney can advise you on how to proceed with the case to ensure the best possible outcome.
At Lustberg Law Offices, LLC., we can conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the facts of your case and provide personalized legal solutions that prioritize your best interests. Top-rated New Jersey criminal defense attorney Adam M. Lustberg has the legal experience and knowledge necessary to help you to understand your rights, make informed decisions, and secure the best possible outcome in your case. Contact our office today at (201) 880-5311 to schedule a consultation. We serve the areas of Hackensack, Passaic County, Bergen County, Hudson County, and other areas in New Jersey.