Shoplifting is a very common offense throughout New Jersey and many other states. Many people have probably shoplifted at one point in their lives, often as young kids or teenagers. Shoplifters tend to justify their actions by telling themselves nobody is getting hurt and a store is not losing much money on one or two stolen items. However, millions of dollars are lost every year to shoplifting, and businesses suffer because of it. Shoplifting charges might be minor sometimes, but they can be very serious when the offense is committed as part of a larger theft ring or criminal operation.
Even though shoplifting does not feel like a big deal to most people, it is still a criminal offense and will be reflected in a defendant’s criminal record. This means future employers or anyone else conducting a background check will know you were once arrested for theft. Shoplifting charges can be difficult to fight, especially when you are caught with the stolen items and no evidence of purchase. You will need assistance from a skilled lawyer to fight your charges.
If you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting, do not underestimate or disregard your case. Our New Jersey shoplifting defense lawyers will help you fight your charges and hopefully prevent any serious penalties. Set up a free legal consultation with our team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call us at (609) 616-4956 to get started with our legal team.
Definition of Shoplifting in New Jersey
Shoplifting is defined under N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11. You likely already have an idea in your head about what it means to shoplift. Most people probably think of shoplifting as slipping small items in your pocket and leaving the store without paying. People also tend to associate shoplifting with small, inexpensive items like candy, batteries, or lip balm. However, expensive large-ticket items, like clothing or electronics, are also frequently shoplifted. Shoplifting charges may vary from minor to severe based on how the theft was carried out and the value of the stolen merchandise.
Shoplifting may be accomplished in multiple ways. The relevant criminal statute describes six different ways, each of which may cover a wide array of behaviors.
- It is shoplifting to purposefully take and carry away merchandise for sale without paying and with the intention to permanently deprive the store of possession,
- To secretly conceal merchandise on your person to avoid paying for it,
- To switch or alter price tags or stickers to reflect a lower price than the one intended for sale, such as by switching out the price tag on an item for one from a cheaper item,
- To move merchandise into a different container to avoid paying full price,
- To purposefully avoid ringing up items at a checkout station, and
- To remove a shopping cart from store premises without permission.
These acts of shoplifting are broad enough to encompass a wide range of shoplifting tactics under many different circumstances. They also apply to all types of merchandise, from food to clothing to electronics. If you are charged with shoplifting, contact our New Jersey shoplifting defense attorneys for help.
Levels of Shoplifting in New Jersey
The level of your shoplifting charges will depend on multiple factors. For smaller offenses, your charges might be minor. The charges might be more serious for larger offenses involving more expensive merchandise or a larger theft scheme.
At the most serious, shoplifting could be charged as a second-degree crime if the value of the stolen merchandise is at least $75,000. It may also be charged this way if the merchandise was worth at least $1,000 and the theft was committed as part of a larger shoplifting ring or organized criminal operation.
Shoplifting could be charged as a third-degree crime if the stolen merchandise is worth at least $500 but less than $75,000. Third-degree crime charges are also appropriate when the theft is committed as part of a larger criminal shoplifting operation, and the goods were worth under $1,000.
Shoplifting charges may be for a fourth-degree crime if the merchandise was valued at $200 or more but less than $500. For merchandise worth under $200, shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense.
When determining shoplifting charges, law enforcement may consider the total value of multiple stolen goods taken at different times. For example, if you are suspected of returning to a particular store multiple times and stealing different items, the police may aggregate the price of all the items to determine your charges. For help handling your shoplifting case, call our New Jersey shoplifting defense lawyers right away.
Being Detained by Store Security for Shoplifting in New Jersey
Many retail stores, especially larger department stores, employ store security personnel to prevent people from shoplifting. Oftentimes, these people are not official law enforcement but private security guards. Although they may not have the legal authority to effectuate an arrest, store security is permitted by law to physically detain shoplifters under certain conditions.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-11(e), a merchant who suspects you of shoplifting and has probable cause to back up their suspicions may physically detain you to recover the merchandise. However, the detention must only be for the purpose of recovering stolen goods. Also, the detention must be conducted in a reasonable manner. For example, being held in a manager’s office may be reasonable, but being handcuffed to a desk in the manager’s office is not.
The circumstances surrounding this kind of detention will vary from case to case. What might be reasonable in one case may not be reasonable in another. If you believe you were unlawfully detained by store security before being arrested, contact our New Jersey shoplifting defense lawyers for help.
Contact Our New Jersey Shoplifting Defense Lawyers
If you are charged with shoplifting, you could be facing somewhat minor disorderly persons offenses charges or very serious charges akin to felonies. Our New Jersey shoplifting defense attorneys could help you fight your charges. Schedule a free legal consultation at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call our offices today at (609) 616-4956.