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Shoplifting Defense Attorneys in New Jersey

November 18, 2020 New Jersey Criminal Lawyers

Highly Skilled Shoplifting Attorneys in New Jersey

A criminal charge for shoplifting is much more severe than you might believe. Whether a shoplifting retail theft involves a second, third or fourth-degree offense, or even a disorderly persons offense, a conviction results in a record that can affect your life for many years to come, as well as penalties that always include the possibility of incarceration. Choosing an attorney with the skill to ensure that you have every chance of escaping a conviction gives you the best chance of defending a shoplifting charge in New Jersey.

New Jersey Shoplifting Legislation

Shoplifting is dealt with in the New Jersey Criminal Code at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. This law lays out six types of conduct that constitutes shoplifting, including:

  1. Purposely taking possession of goods with the intention of depriving the merchant of its value;
  2. Concealing goods
  3. Altering, transferring or removing labels or price tags in order to purchase the merchandise for less than its true value
  4. Exchanging the box or container of merchandise to deprive the merchant of the full value of the goods
  5. Under-ringing merchandise
  6. Removing a shopping cart from the property of a retailer.

It is worthy of note that an person can only be convicted of a New Jersey shoplifting offense under any of these scenarios if their conduct is purposeful.  This means that they had to intend to deprive the merchant of the goods or their true value.

Degrees of Shoplifting Offenses

One common question asked by people who have been arrested for shoplifting is about how the severity, commonly referred to as grade of offense, determined in New Jersey?  The grading of a shoplifting charge is determined by the value of the merchandise lifted.

  • If the full retail value of the merchandise stolen is $75,000 or more, shoplifting is a second-degree crime.
  • It is a third-degree crime to commit shoplifting of items with a value of at least $500 but lower than $75,000.
  • If the value of the merchandise is at least $200 but less than $500, shoplifting results in a fourth-degree crime.
  • Shoplifting is a disorderly person offense where the value of the goods is lower than $200.

You should also be aware that separate, individual acts of shoplifting may be aggregated so that the sum of the thefts dictate the grade of shoplifting offense. Aggregation is allowed when a defendant engages in a “continuing course of conduct” involving shoplifting. For instance, if an individual is arrested for shoplifting items from four different retailers at the mall in one afternoon, the prosecutor can total up the retail value of all the items stolen to determine grade of the charge.

Can A New Jersey Merchant Legally Detain Someone For Shoplifting?

A merchant or lost prevention officer is legally allowed detain a shoplifting suspect for a reasonable period and in a reasonable manner provided they possess probable cause to believe that the individual violated the law. Whether the detention is reasonable is a matter to be later determined by the court. If the court finds that the detention was unreasonable, criminal and/or civil charges could result.


Possible Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey

Disorderly Persons Offense. When someone is charged with a disorderly person offense for shoplifting, they may serve up to 6 months in the county jail and pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Fourth Degree Shoplifting. A fourth-degree conviction for shoplifting can get you up to 18 months in prison and a fine that can reach $10,000.

Third Degree Shoplifting. A third-degree conviction for shoplifting, the most common felony grade for this crime, carries as much as 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.

Second Degree Shoplifting. Penalties for second degree shoplifting include 5-10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

Mandatory Jail Time for Repeat Offenders. You should also be aware that there is a mandatory jail term of 90 days upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense.

Community Service Requirement. Additionally, the shoplifting statute mandates community service for a first offense, second offense, and third offense. An offender must perform 10 days of community service for a first offense. For a second offense, 15 days of community service are required. Community service is 25 days for a third or subsequent conviction on shoplifting charges.


Civil Penalties and other costs. It is important to know that a merchant may also seek a civil penalty if they believe you are guilty of shoplifting. This is customarily assessed in the amount of $150. The merchant is additionally entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and costs incurred to collect the money in the event that payment is not made.


Given the long list of penalties for shoplifting, it is of utmost importance that you get a criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid the many pitfalls that surround this area of the law. Each and every lawyer at Spodek Law Group is experienced in dealing with shoplifting charges in New Jersey including Bergen County, Monmouth County, Hudson County, Camden County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Somerset County, Essex County, Mercer County, and Burlington County.

Diversion Programs for Shoplifting Defendants in New Jersey

There are two New Jersey diversion programs that allow an accused shoplifter to avoid a conviction for shoplifting. Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) applies when a first-time offender is facing a fourth-degree or third-degree crime for shoplifting. A similar program is available to disorderly persons offenses.  That program is referred to as Conditional Dismissal.

Generally speaking, the defendant needs to complete one year of probation and, upon successful completion, the original shoplifting charge is dropped. There is no requirement that the accused enter any plea as a prerequisite to gain access to PTI.  On the other hand, a plea must be placed on the record before someone can be admitted into Conditional Dismissal.

Immigration Consequences for Shoplifting Defendants in New Jersey

There are collateral consequences further than the penalties outlined above when an alleged shoplifter isn’t a United States citizen. The possibility of additional ramifications exists in the event that a defendant falls within one of the following three categories of immigration status:

  1. A permanent resident is a person who lacks citizenship but holds a green card that allows them to live and work in the country permanently.
  2. An person can also be a temporary resident by virtue of a student visa, dependant visa, or travel visa.
  3. Finally, a person can possess no immigration status because they entered the country illegally or as the result of a lapse in status, such as an expired green card or visa.

The fear is that the person will face removal, deportation, or be denied admission into the country by virtue of a shoplifting conviction when they lack citizenship.

The threat of deportation or denial of entry stems from the fact that federal immigration law views shoplifting a crime involving moral turpitude.  Two convictions for any crime involving moral turpitude renders a non-citizen with status removable/deportable. An individual could also be deported if they are convicted of a fourth-degree, third-degree, or second-degree crime for shoplifting within five (5) years of admission to the country.

You should also be aware that a shoplifting conviction can render a person inadmissible to the United States. This bar to re-entry applies if a noncitizen gets convicted for a fourth, third, or second-degree crime for shoplifting. Inadmissibility in this manner does not apply, however, in cases where the conviction is for a petty offense under federal immigration legislation. A conviction comes under the petty offense exception if the maximum period of imprisonment is one year or less and the actual sentence imposed is less than six months, as in a disorderly persons offense for shoplifting.

Organized Retail Theft Enterprise in New Jersey

This is defined as two or more persons associated in order to transfer shoplifted merchandise. Participation in a organized retail theft enterprise is illegal in the State of New Jersey. It is a second-degree offense for a member of a retail theft enterprise to possess or transfer stolen merchandise with a value exceeding $1,000. It is a third-degree crime where the merchandise value is $1,000 or lower.

Another way to get convicted for a second-degree crime in this framework is to serve as the leader of an organized retail theft enterprise. A person acts in this capacity if they conspire with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager, to engage for profit in a scheme or course of conduct to effectuate the transfer or sale of shoplifted goods.

If you are looking at an organized retail theft charge anywhere in the state of New Jersey, you are probably facing 5-10 years behind bars absent a successful defense. Under these circumstances, you will need the very best NJ shoplifting defense lawyer you can find.

Possession of Shoplifting Devices in New Jersey

Possession of any device designed to facilitate retail theft or detection by merchants is illegal in New Jersey. Examples of devices coming under this prohibition include things that demagnetize merchandise security tags or change the bar code on merchandise price tags.  Any other implements whose purpose is to subvert anti-shoplifting countermeasures are prohibited devices. If you are found guilty of possession of this type of material, you subject to a disorderly persons offense, up to 6 months in the county jail, fines, community service, and other penalties.

Shoplifting Turned Robbery in New Jersey

It is often quite shocking to individuals to learn that they are being prosecuted for robbery, a much more serious offense, when their conduct was largely a retail theft in nature. This enhancement is triggered if the accused uses any force whatsoever to obtain merchandise, flee the store, or escape apprehension. The problem when this happens is that the theft then becomes a second-degree crime for robbery.

Second-degree robbery carries 5-10 years behind bars and a $150,000 fine. On top of that, the No Early Release Act applies to robbery convictions, requiring that a defendant serve at least 85% of any prison sentence before they can be considered for parole. If you have been charged with robbery because of an incident that occurred when you attempted to shoplift, you will surely want to contact an experienced NJ criminal lawyer right away.

Call Our Highly Skilled Shoplifting Attorneys in New Jersey

If you were charged with shoplifting and are in need of an attorney, please do not hesitate to contact our criminal defense law firm with any questions or to arrange for your free consultation. We have highly skilled retail theft attorneys who can handle your shoplifting case and to mount a defense that will thoroughly protect you against conviction. Call our law offices today to speak to an experienced New Jersey shoplifting lawyer on our team. Our lawyers will be more than willing and very able to answer your questions and advise you on how we can help you move on with your life without a criminal record and other penalties for shoplifting.



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