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Shoplifting in NJ: How Serious Is the Offense, and What Are the Consequences?

Shoplifting is a criminal offense that occurs when individuals knowingly take merchandise from a retail store without paying for it. Although shoplifting might seem like a minor crime, the state of New Jersey takes it seriously and imposes significant penalties on offenders. In this article, we will delve into the seriousness of shoplifting in New Jersey, explore the legal consequences it entails, and shed light on potential defenses to mitigate the impact of these charges.

I. Understanding Shoplifting in New Jersey:

Shoplifting is defined as the act of intentionally taking merchandise from a store without paying for it or altering price tags to obtain goods at a reduced cost. The crime of shoplifting can occur in various forms, such as:

1. Concealment: Hiding merchandise on one’s person or within personal belongings with the intent to steal it

2. Price Switching: Altering price tags or packaging to pay a lower amount than the actual value of the item

3. Refund Fraud: Attempting to return stolen goods for a cash refund or store credit.

4. Cart Pushouts: Leaving the store premises with a shopping cart filled with unpaid merchandise

II. The Severity of Shoplifting Offenses:

In New Jersey, the seriousness of shoplifting charges depends on the value of the stolen merchandise. The state classifies shoplifting into several degrees:

  • Disorderly Persons Offense: When the value of the stolen merchandise is less than $200. Punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000
  • Fourth Degree Shoplifting: If the merchandise’s value is between $200 and $500 Penalties include up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $10,000
  • Third Degree Shoplifting: When the stolen items are worth between $500 and $75,000, or if the shoplifting was committed in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise. A conviction may result in 3 to 5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000
  • Second Degree Shoplifting: The theft of merchandise worth more than $75,000. The consequences include 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $150,000

III. Juvenile Shoplifting:

Juvenile shoplifting is treated differently from adult cases. New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission handles cases involving individuals under the age of 18. The goal is to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, but penalties may still include community service, counseling, restitution, and educational programs.

IV. Civil Penalties for Shoplifting:

In addition to criminal charges, New Jersey permits merchants to pursue civil penalties against shoplifters. Merchants may demand monetary compensation from the offender, ranging from $150 to $500, in addition to the actual damages caused.

V. Defenses for Shoplifting Charges:

A skilled criminal defense attorney can help build a strong defense strategy to fight shoplifting charges. Possible defenses may include:

  • Lack of Intent: The prosecution must prove that the individual intentionally intended to steal the merchandise. If the defense can establish that the act was accidental or that there was no intent to shoplift, the charges may be reduced or dismissed.
  • Mistaken Identity: In some cases, shoplifting charges may arise due to mistaken identity. A strong alibi or compelling evidence that proves the accused was not present at the time of the alleged offense can be effective in establishing this defense.
  • Duress or Coercion: If the individual committed the act under threats or coercion from another party, they may have a valid defense.
  • Age-related Defenses: Minors may be subject to different legal proceedings and sentencing than adults, and certain age-related defenses may apply.
  • Consent: If the owner or store personnel gave permission to take the item, it is not shoplifting.

Key Takeaway:

Shoplifting in New Jersey is a serious offense with potentially life-changing consequences. Offenders can face various legal penalties, civil liabilities, and long-term personal repercussions. If you or someone you know is facing shoplifting charges, it is imperative to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and provide the best possible defense. Remember, timely legal intervention may significantly impact the outcome of the case and potentially mitigate the severity of the consequences.

Contact Lombardi & Lombardi Today for a Free Consultation About Your Criminal Defense

When facing shoplifting charges in New Jersey, you need a legal team that understands the gravity of the situation and is prepared to fight for your rights. At Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A., we know that even seemingly minor shoplifting incidents can lead to significant penalties. That’s why our skilled criminal defense attorneys are here to provide you with the best possible defense.

With years of experience handling shoplifting cases, we understand the nuances of New Jersey’s laws and the complexities involved in each situation. Our knowledge allows us to build a strong defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances.

If you or someone you know is facing shoplifting charges, don’t wait to act. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. Our compassionate attorneys are ready to stand by your side, fight for your rights, and navigate you through this challenging time. Remember, timely legal intervention can make all the difference. Let us be your trusted defense.

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