New Jersey Shoplifting Defense Lawyer
Shoplifting in New Jersey falls under Section 2C:20-11 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. When most people think of shoplifting, they probably think of kids and teenagers stealing small items from places like a convenience store or a shopping mall. Often, people do it for the thrill of it, not because they actually need the item they stole. What most people may not realize is that shoplifting is not always a minor disorderly persons offense. Depending on the value of the item or items stolen and the circumstances surrounding the theft, shoplifting can be a very serious crime that carries heavy penalties.
A shoplifting charge is not something you should underestimate or brush off as insignificant. The consequences of a shoplifting conviction can be serious with a long-lasting impact on your life. Attempting to resolve your case on your own can be overwhelming even under the best circumstances. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system in New Jersey and provide you with the best defense for your case. If you have been charged with shoplifting in NJ, contact a New Jersey shoplifting defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.
The Definition of Shoplifting in New Jersey
Shoplifting involves the theft of merchandise from a retail store. The theft may occur by removing the merchandise from the store without paying for it, such as by hiding it in your clothes or in a bag or purse. It may also occur by secretly switching the price tag of the item you wish to buy with tag from a cheaper item. If you switched the price tag, you may “pay for” the item before you leave, but you defrauded the store out of the full value of the item.
Shoplifting in New Jersey may be a small offense with a relatively light penalty or a very serious crime that entails a harsher punishment. The seriousness of the charge against you will depend on a variety of factors surrounding your case. One of the more important factors is the value of the item or items that you allegedly stole. To put it simply, the higher the value, the more serious the charges against you will become.
Levels of Shoplifting in New Jersey
Small thefts from retail stores typically result in minor charges that carry minimal penalties. However, if law enforcement authorities suspect you are a part of a larger retail theft operation, such as a theft ring or a group of shoplifters who operate according to some larger plan, the consequences become much steeper. Hiring a qualified New Jersey shoplifting defense attorney to handle your case is the first step to mounting your best defense.
Shoplifting will be a crime of the second degree when:
- The value of the stolen merchandise is at least $75,000, or
- The shoplifting is done as part of an organized retail theft enterprise, and the full value of the stolen merchandise is $1,000 or more.
Shoplifting will be a crime of the third degree when:
- The value of the stolen merchandise is between $500 and $75,000, or
- The shoplifting is done in furtherance of an organized retail theft enterprise, and the full value of the stolen merchandise is less than $1,000.
Shoplifting will be a crime of the fourth degree when the full value of the stolen merchandise is at least $200, but the full value does not exceed $500.
Shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense when the full value of the stolen merchandise is less than $200.
Can I Be Detained by Store Security for Shoplifting in New Jersey?
Being detained for committing a crime, or even just being suspected of committing a crime, is a normal part of the criminal justice process. What you might not know is that the police are not the only people who can detain you for certain crimes. For the crime of shoplifting, a defendant can be detained by security personnel at the retail store from which they allegedly shoplifted. A store security guard or a store manager can hold you at the store under certain conditions.
A person suspected of shoplifting may be detained by a police officer, a security guard, or a store employee. Whomever detains the suspect must have “probable cause” to believe the suspect has stolen store merchandise. They cannot detain you unless they have at least some evidence to support their suspicion. Additionally, a suspect may only be detained for a reasonable period of time. What is considered “reasonable” will depend on the unique circumstances of the suspect. Generally, however, a detention may become unreasonable if a suspect is held for more than a few hours without the police present. The manner in which a suspect is detained must also be reasonable. Being held in a manager’s office is usually fine but being tied to a chair in the manager’s office is obviously unreasonable. Our New Jersey shoplifting defense lawyer can help you determine if you were detained in an unreasonable manner.
Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey
When a charge for shoplifting is merely a disorderly persons offense, a defendant may be sentenced to jail time of no more than 6 months. This would be the case for small thefts under $200. When the charge is a crime of the second degree, the defendant may be sentenced to a prison term of 5 to 10 years. For a third-degree crime, the defendant may be sentenced to 3 to five years. For a fourth-degree crime, the defendant faces a prison term of up 18 months.
In addition to possible time in prison, anyone who is convicted of a shoplifting charge must also be sentenced to community service. A first-time offender must perform at least 10 days of community service. A second-time offender must perform at least 15 days of community service. A defendant convicted of any subsequent offense must perform no more than 25 days of community service and also serve no less than 90 days in prison.
Call Our New Jersey Shoplifting Defense Lawyer for a Free Case Consultation
Shoplifting is a very common charge faced by many defendants every day in New Jersey. If you have been charged with shoplifting, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 and schedule a consultation with a qualified New Jersey and Atlantic City criminal defense attorney.