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Shoplifting Charges in New Jersey

William J. Quirk, Esq., LLC July 8, 2022

Young woman trying to steal a garment from  storeShoplifting is one of the most commonly charged offenses in New Jersey. However, it does not make shoplifting charges any less serious. Many people do not realize the significance of shoplifting charges until they get caught and have to fight for their rights and freedom. Many people get arrested for shoplifting even when they did nothing illegal.

If you are facing shoplifting charges in New Jersey, your best bet is to consult with an attorney who can explain your defense options and possible outcomes in your case. Attorney William Quirk is a criminal defense attorney who represents clients facing a wide range of criminal charges, including shoplifting, theft, and robbery charges in Hackensack, Paterson, Clifton, New Jersey, and West New York areas.

Shoplifting Charges Under New Jersey Law

Shoplifting is a criminal charge for willful theft of goods and merchandise from a store or merchant. Basically, people can face shoplifting charges for taking and carrying away the goods and merchandise belonging to a store without paying for it. New Jersey law outlines six types of conduct that may amount to shoplifting charges:

  1. Concealing merchandise with the intent to steal it;

  2. Willfully taking goods from the store with the intention of depriving the store of its value;

  3. Removing or altering price tags or labels with the intent to pay for the merchandise less than it is actually worth;

  4. Switching containers or boxes of merchandise with the intent to pay for the merchandise less than it is actually worth;

  5. Causing the cash register or another sale recording device to reflect less than the true value of the merchandise; and

  6. Removing a shopping cart from the premises of the store.

Under the shoplifting law in New Jersey, an individual can be convicted of the crime if they acted willfully and had the intention to deprive the store or merchant of the true value of the merchandise.

Classification of Charges

Shoplifting charges in New Jersey range from a disorderly persons offense (the least serious) to a 2nd-degree crime (the most serious), depending on the value of the items stolen from the merchant:

  • Disorderly persons offense for items valued at less than $200;

  • 4th-degree crime for items with the price tag of between $200 and $500;

  • 3rd-degree crime for items valued between $500 and $75,000; and

  • 2nd-degree crime for items worth over $75,000.

Individuals in New Jersey can also face shoplifting charges for possessing or using devices that print fake labels or devices designed to disable or otherwise interfere with antishoplifting security measures. If the defendant used physical force while attempting to steal the merchandise or flee, their charges would be elevated to robbery charges.

Possible Penalties for Shoplifting

A shoplifting conviction can have life-altering consequences, including jail time, probation, community service, and fines. Depending on the shoplifting charge, a defendant may be sent to a county jail or prison and ordered to pay up to $150,000 in fines. New Jersey also imposes a mandatory 90-day jail sentence for repeat offenders. In addition to criminal penalties for shoplifting, individuals convicted of shoplifting in New Jersey may also be ordered to pay a civil penalty and compensate the merchant for their monetary losses.

Common Defenses to Shoplifting Allegations

There are different possible defense strategies that may be used by individuals facing shoplifting charges in New Jersey. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • Contesting witness statement. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to call into question a witness’s credibility.

  • Lack of intent. You cannot be convicted of shoplifting if you can prove that you did not have the intent to leave the premises of the store without paying for the merchandise.

  • Mistake of fact (accidental shoplifting). Another common defense to a shoplifting charge is claiming that you truly made an honest mistake.

Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to use these or other defense strategies to fight the charges and avoid a shoplifting conviction. You must contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who will evaluate your particular case and explain your defense options.

How William J. Quirk, Esq., LLC Can Help

The criminal defense attorney at William J. Quirk, Esq., LLC has decades of experience representing people like you in cases involving shoplifting, robbery, and theft charges. If you have been accused of stealing merchandise from a store or are facing shoplifting charges in Hackensack, Paterson, Clifton, West New York areas, or elsewhere in New Jersey, contact attorney William Quirk for immediate assistance.