Shoplifting Charges in NJ
When someone removes merchandise from a store without paying for it, they can be found guilty of shoplifting There are a variety of other circumstances where one can be charged with shoplifting:
- individual takes or conceals merchandise
- changes or removes price tags
- moves merchandise to another container
- causes a register to “under-ring” merchandise
- takes a shopping cart from a store without the intention of returning it
There are various degrees of shoplifting. The lowest charge is referred to as a disorderly persons offense. This is when a person takes merchandise with a combined value of less than $200. The penalty for this level of shoplifting is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A third offense requires a mandatory minimum of 90 days in county jail. Click here for a link to the State of New Jersey’s sentencing memorandum for shoplifting.
Shoplifting is graded as a crime when the value of the merchandise exceeds $200:
- Crime of the fourth degree: Shoplifting merchandise with a total combined value of $200-$500; up to eighteen months of prison time and fines up to $10,000
- Crime of the third degree: Shoplifting merchandise with a total combined value of $500-$75,000; between 3-5 years prison time and fines up to $15,000
- Crime of the second degree: Shoplifting merchandise with a total combined value of $75,000 or more; between 5-10 years prison time and fines up to $150,000
Most defendants facing charges for shoplifting wind up in Municipal Court, as the value of items taken is usually rather small. In the past in New Jersey, it was possible for criminal defense lawyers to have shoplifting charges amended to township or borough ordinances, thus allowing their clients to avoid criminal records and possible jail time. Recently however, a memorandum from the Administrative Office of the Courts has been circulated to all municipal court judges instructing them that they are not allowed to amend shoplifting to ordinances. This has placed defendants and their lawyers in tough spots as most cases have to be tried in court to avoid a criminal record. This is why it is critical that you hire a lawyer for the defense of shoplifting charges, even in municipal court.