Many people think of shoplifting, or retail theft, as a minor offense that only teenagers are charged with. In reality, people from all age groups and backgrounds are arrested for shoplifting in Atlantic City every day. Depending on the retail value of the item that was stolen, shoplifting can be a misdemeanor (disorderly persons offense), or even a felony (indictable crime) in New Jersey. The consequences of a conviction may include jail or prison time, costly fines, and a criminal record that will follow you from state to state. A shoplifting charge may also threaten your eligibility for certain scholarships, student loans, jobs, internships, and other academic or career pursuits.
Make sure you are represented by an experienced shoplifting defense attorney if you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges related to retail theft in Atlantic City. For a free legal consultation, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych online, or call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 to speak with a shoplifting lawyer today.
What is the Shoplifting Law in Atlantic County?
The New Jersey shoplifting statute is N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11. While most people think of shoplifting strictly as stealing goods from a store, the law provides several additional acts that may also constitute shoplifting and therefore give rise to criminal charges.
In New Jersey, you can be charged with shoplifting for allegedly committing any of the following acts:
- Changing a product’s packaging or container, including altering its price tags
- Concealing merchandise while you are in a store (such as hiding products under your jacket or in a bag)
- Taking a shopping cart off the premises
- Taking merchandise from a store without paying for it
- Under-ringing merchandise at checkout (including self-serve checkout lanes)
In addition to proving that you took one or more of these actions, the prosecutor must also show that you acted “with the intention of depriving the merchant” of the product’s retail value – in other words, that you acted with intent to avoid paying the full price. Importantly, N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11(d) notes that any person found concealing merchandise “shall be… presumed to have so concealed such merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value,” meaning, in simpler terms, there is an assumption that concealing merchandise indicates intent to steal from the seller.
Is Shoplifting a Felony in Atlantic County, NJ
Most states categorize serious criminal offenses as felonies, while lesser offenses are classed as misdemeanors. New Jersey follows a similar system, but uses different terminology, which can cause confusion for those unaware of these rules. In New Jersey, misdemeanors are equivalent to a “disorderly persons offense,” while offenses that would normally be described as “felonies” are instead called “indictable crimes” or “crimes.” Therefore, a disorderly persons offense refers to a misdemeanor, and a crime or indictable crime refers to a felony.
The severity of an indictable crime is indicated by its “degree.” For example, a second degree crime is more serious – and therefore, may lead to greater penalties – than a third or fourth degree crime.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11(c) describes the way shoplifting offenses are categorized or graded in New Jersey. Offense grading is based on the value of item(s) stolen, as follows:
- If the item(s) cost less than $200, shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor).
- If the item(s) cost at least $200 but less than $500, shoplifting is a fourth degree crime (fourth degree felony).
- If the item(s) cost at least $500 but less than $75,000, shoplifting is a third degree crime (third degree felony).
- If the item(s) cost $75,000 or more, shoplifting is a second degree crime (second degree felony).
Jail Time for Shoplifting in Atlantic City
If you are found guilty of shoplifting in New Jersey, you may face jail or prison time. The length of your sentence depends on factors such as how the offense was graded and whether you have a history of prior theft convictions or other criminal offenses. Judges have some discretion over sentencing, but must stay within certain ranges that are provided by state laws and criminal statutes. Depending on these factors, a prison or jail sentence for shoplifting in New Jersey may be imposed as follows:
- If the offense was a disorderly persons offense, you may be sentenced to up to six months in jail. You can also be fined $1,000.
- If the offense was a fourth degree crime, you may be sentenced to 18 months in prison at maximum. You may also be fined up to $10,000.
- If the offense was a third degree crime, you may be sentenced to as many as five years in prison and receive fines of up to $15,000.
- If the offense was a second degree crime, you may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The court can also fine you as much as $150,000.
In addition to facing fines and jail time, you will be required under N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11(c)(4) to perform community service, as follows:
- First-Offense Shoplifting – 10 days or more
- Second-Offense Shoplifting – 15 days or more
- Third-Offense Shoplifting – 25 days or more, plus a minimum 90-day jail sentence
Atlantic City Shoplifting Defense Attorneys for Retail Theft Charges
Get aggressive, around-the-clock legal support if you or one of your family members has been charged with shoplifting in Atlantic City. Contact our New Jersey criminal defense firm online, or call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free legal consultation. Our Atlantic City shoplifting defense lawyers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist with your legal matter.