According to a study by Hayes International, every year there are 290 to 340 million shoplifting incidents nationwide. New Jersey law punishes all types of shoplifters. For those accused of shoplifting, the consequences can be serious, and those accused may require professional representation to handle the case and protect their legal rights.

Shoplifting Crime and Punishment

Shoplifting encompasses many different acts beyond the normal concealing an item on the person with the intention of not paying for it. Altering the price of an item is considered shoplifting, as is changing the container of the item to pay less for it. Under-ringing, where a store employee charges less for the item, is also considered shoplifting. If a person is caught with unpurchased merchandise, then they are presumed to have intended to shoplift the item.

Punishment for shoplifting is based on the value of the item stolen. Below are some of the different degrees of shoplifting and their punishments:

  • Second-degree shoplifting: Any item stolen that’s worth $75,000 is second-degree shoplifting. A $150,000 fine and five to 10 years’ imprisonment may be assessed against the shoplifter.
  • Third-degree shoplifting: Stolen items priced from $501 to $74,999 constitute third-degree shoplifting. Violators can be sent to jail from three to five years and pay up to a $15,000 fine for this offense.
  • Fourth-degree shoplifting: Shoplifting items from $200 to $500 is considered fourth-degree shoplifting. If convicted, offenders can spend up to 18 months in prison and pay a $10,000 fine.
  • Disorderly persons shoplifting (misdemeanor shoplifting): Stolen items valued at less than $200 are misdemeanor shoplifting crimes. Up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine can be assessed for this crime.

The first shoplifting offense carries with it a mandatory 10 days of community service, while the second offense includes 15 days of community service. After the third offense, there is a mandatory 90-day prison sentence and 25 days of community service penalty.

Can I downgrade my shoplifting charges?

For third-degree offenses for items less than $2,000, prosecutors have the option to downgrade the charge to “disorderly person shoplifting” if there are trial proof challenges. Fourth-degree shoplifting also can be downgraded to “disorderly persons” charges by prosecutorial discretion.

Municipal court prosecutors must pursue shoplifting cases, even if the defendant doesn’t have legal counsel. For juvenile offenders, the penalties for shoplifting don’t apply; only the definitions of the different degrees do. Shoplifting charges from childhood don’t count as previous offenses when the child turns 18.

What can I do to improve my chances for a successful outcome in my case?

The best defense for shoplifting is proving that you had no intention to steal the item. If you left an item in your shopping cart, for example, then it may be clear you didn’t want to steal it but just forgot about it.

Working out a plea bargain for the charge also may be in your interests. If you lose at trial, the judge can sentence you up to the maximum punishment for the crime. In plea bargains, the prosecutor recommends a sentence that the judge often follows.

Video: Shoplifting Consequences

Dash Farrow LLP will defend your rights in a shoplifting case or help you reach an appropriate resolution to your charge. Call us at 856-235-8300 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.