Shoplifting is often thought of as a petty crime teenagers commit that ends with a simple slap on the wrist. While this is one scenario, there are various degrees of shoplifting, some of which are much more serious. The penalty for shoplifting in New Jersey depends primarily on the value of what is stolen and, in addition to fines and community service, it can include jail time. Before diving into the specific penalties for different degrees of the crime, it’s important to understand all the different actions that fall under the umbrella of shoplifting.
What is Shoplifting?
It is a common misconception that shoplifting is simply taking merchandise from a business without paying for it. However, there are other methods of stealing that are also considered shoplifting.
- Concealing merchandise on your person with the intent to steal it. This applies even if you are caught before leaving the store.
- Changing or altering a price tag in order to pay a lower price.
- Swapping merchandise packaging to avoid paying full price.
- Removing shopping carts from the store’s premises.
- Scanning an item with a lower price at the self checkout in place of a higher priced item.
- A cashier can also be charged with shoplifting for intentionally entering a lower price into the computer at checkout.
The Different Degrees of Shoplifting
All of the above actions are considered to be shoplifting. They are prosecuted based on the dollar value of the merchandise that has been stolen and the number of offenses committed.
Disorderly Persons/Misdemeanor Shoplifting – Shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense if the value of the merchandise is less than $200. This penalty for shoplifting can include up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Fourth Degree Shoplifting – Shoplifting is a fourth degree crime if the value of the merchandise is at least $200 but does not exceed $500. This penalty for shoplifting can include up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Third Degree Shoplifting – Shoplifting is a third degree crime if the value of the merchandise exceeds $500 but is less than $75,000. This penalty for shoplifting can include three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
Second Degree Shoplifting – Shoplifting is a second degree crime if the value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more. This penalty for shoplifting can include five to ten years in prison and up to a $150,000 fine.
The number of offenses also increases the mandatory penalty for shoplifting. A first offense requires 10 days of community service, while the second offense requires 15 days of community service. With the third offense, 90 days in prison and 25 days of community service are required. The impacted businesses can sue shoplifters which can incur additional monetary fines.
In certain third and fourth degree cases, prosecutors may have the option to downgrade the charge to a disorderly persons/misdemeanor shoplifting offense. Also, these penalties do not apply to juvenile offenders.
Facing the Penalty for Shoplifting?
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure the best possible outcome of your case. They will be familiar with all the intricacies of shoplifting laws, understand the best way to prepare your defense and be able to negotiate a plea bargain if necessary.
At Andy Weinstein Law, we understand that being accused of shoplifting can be overwhelming and negatively impact your future. Andy started his own law practice because he saw a need for diligent defense attorneys who both know the system and will thoughtfully and forcefully protect their clients to the end. Specializing in criminal defense, he accurately assess your circumstances and provides you with top-notch representation. Schedule a consultation with Andy and experience for yourself what makes Andy Weinstein Law unique. You’ll never think of lawyers the same way again!