Shoplifting charges are common during the holiday season. In New Jersey, the penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the merchandise involved. So if you’ve been charged, it is important to understand what is at stake in your case, and it is even more important to understand what defenses you have available.
What Constitutes Shoplifting?
Before we discuss potential penalties and sentences, we first need to discuss what constitutes shoplifting. Under Section 2C:20-11 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, the crime of shoplifting can involve any of the following:
- Intentionally taking merchandise without paying for it
- Concealing merchandise with the intent to take it without paying for it
- Removing merchandise from its container with the intent to take it without paying for it
- Altering or removing a price tag in an attempt to pay less than full price
- Intentionally under-ringing merchandise as a cashier
What are the Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, shoplifting can be prosecuted as a disorderly persons offense or a fourth, third or even second-degree indictable crime. The maximum sentences for shoplifting offenses are as follows:
- Shoplifting merchandise worth less than $200 is a disorderly persons offense that carries up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
- Shoplifting merchandise worth between $200 and $500 is a fourth-degree indictable crime that carries up to a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison.
- Shoplifting merchandise worth between $501 and $74,999 is a third-degree indictable crime that carries up to a $15,000 fine and three to five years in prison.
- Shoplifting merchandise worth more than $75,000 is a second-degree indictable crime that carries up to a $150,000 fine and 5 to 10 years in prison.
What Are Some Potential Defenses to a Shoplifting Charge?
While it is possible to face shoplifting charges under a variety of circumstances (including circumstances in which you did not actually leave a store without paying for an item), there are a variety of defenses to shoplifting charges as well.
One of the most common defenses to shoplifting charges is lack of intent. For example, let’s say you had a cart full of gifts for your loved ones, and you inadvertently left a gift in your cart during checkout. As you left the store, the security alarm rang, and then the police came and arrested you for shoplifting. In this scenario, even though you left the store with an item you hadn’t purchased, you didn’t intend to steal the item, so you shouldn’t be found guilty of shoplifting under New Jersey law.
Even if there is no defense, an experienced New Jersey shoplifting lawyer may be able to plead to a less serious charge pursuant to a plea bargain.
Speak with a New Jersey Shoplifting Lawyer in Confidence
This is just one example of numerous potential defenses to shoplifting charges in New Jersey. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting, you should speak with a New Jersey shoplifting lawyer to find out what defenses you have available. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact an attorney online today.