Shoplifting and Theft Laws in New Jersey
Experienced New Jersey Shoplifting Attorney Can Defend You Against Petty Theft Charges
Although shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, these criminal charges can have devastating and permanent consequences for your future. Even if you have no prior offenses and serve no jail time, a guilty conviction will still appear on background checks. This can make it more difficult to secure loans, qualify for certain jobs or find housing. Additionally, depending on the severity of the shoplifting charges, penalties can include thousands of dollars in fines and/or years in prison. However, an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney may be able to convince the court to reduce or drop the theft charges against you entirely.
The lawyers at Spevack Law Firm have defended residents in and around Woodbridge Township and the surrounding areas since 1928. We understand the New Jersey legal system, and can provide experienced guidance in your shoplifting case. We can listen to your side of the story and craft an individualized defense strategy for you. In court, we take an aggressive stance in defense of our clients. We serve clients throughout New Jersey, including those in Union and Monmouth Counties, from our offices in New Brunswick and Iselin.
What are the Different Types of Shoplifting in New Jersey?
New Jersey shoplifting laws designate five distinct acts that may result in shoplifting charges. In some cases, you do not even have to leave the premises of a store to face charges. Under state law, shoplifting can be:
- Taking merchandise. Deliberately taking merchandise from a store without paying is the most common kind of shoplifting.
- Changing price tags. If you change or remove price tags to purchase merchandise at less than full value, then you could face shoplifting charges.
- Concealing merchandise. In New Jersey, even concealing items with the intent to steal is technically shoplifting. For example, the store could charge you with shoplifting if you place an unpurchased PlayStation 4 game in your backpack, even if you do not leave.
- Transferring containers. Placing merchandise into another container to obtain a lower price is considered shoplifting. For example, switching $80 shoes into a box marked $30 could result in criminal charges.
- Under-ringing merchandise. If you work as a cashier, then it is considered shoplifting to deliberately undercharge customers for merchandise.
What are the Different Levels of New Jersey Shoplifting Charges?
The severity of shoplifting charges and potential penalties depends on the value of the items stolen and other factors. The four different types of New Jersey shoplifting charges are:
- Disorderly Persons Offense (DP offense). DP offenses involve the theft of merchandise valued at $200 or less. This type of offense is tried as a municipal court case. If convicted, then you may pay a fine and/or serve up to six months in jail. However, if you are a first-time offender, you may receive a fine of up to $1,000 and community service hours. Depending on the circumstances, your criminal defense attorney may even be able to negotiate lighter terms or get the charges dropped altogether.
- Crime of the Fourth Degree. A crime of the fourth degree involves the theft of merchandise valued at more than $200 but less than $500. If convicted, you can receive a maximum prison sentence of 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000. The county court tries these cases instead of the municipal court.
- Crime of the Third Degree. Theft of property valued at greater than $500 and less than $75,000 is a crime of the third degree. The penalties include fines of up to $15,000 and three to five years in prison.
- Crime of the Second Degree. This is the most serious theft charge, which involves property valued at more than $75,000. In some cases, less serious shoplifting offenses can be upgraded to robbery, a crime of the second degree. For example, if you are accused of using force while shoplifting, even property of low value, then the court may upgrade the charges. If convicted, then you could receive a maximum fine of $150,000 and a prison sentence of five to ten years.
Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help the Outcome of My Case?
The outcome of your shoplifting case depends on the charges you are facing and the strength of your defense. If you are being charged with a DP offense in a municipal court case, then your case will go before a municipal judge. More serious charges could result in your case going to trial in the county court. In either case, an experienced New Jersey shoplifting attorney can represent your best interest and fight for the best outcome possible.
If you or a loved one is facing charges of shoplifting, then it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can help you reduce charges or avoid a trial in several ways, such as:
- Your attorney can negotiate with the store owner to drop the theft charges. This option involves a civil compromise where the store owner agrees to drop the charges if you agree to pay for the stolen merchandise.
- In some cases, your attorney can negotiate to reduce your charges. A reduction of your charges may enable you to avoid a trial and other severe penalties. This outcome is much easier to obtain if you have no prior offenses.
- Depending on the circumstances, your attorney can argue for case dismissal. If the store owner or witnesses fail to appear for the initial or subsequent hearings, then the judge may dismiss your case. In addition, your attorney may be able to show that the evidence against you is too weak to warrant charges.
New Jersey shoplifting laws also allow store owners to file civil lawsuits to recover money for missing property and legal fees. Without the aid of a skilled attorney, you could end up paying both criminal fines and damages to store owners.
Call a Woodbridge Shoplifting Attorney Today for a Free Consultation
Shoplifting charges can have a permanent and devastating effect on your life. The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Spevack Law Firm can help you seek the best legal outcome for these kinds of theft charges. This includes obtaining a reduction in the charges against you or case dismissal.
We have three offices in New Jersey, which allows us to take clients from across Essex County and Union County. Call one of our criminal defense attorneys in Iselin or New Brunswick, or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation today.