Theft Defense Attorneys in Ocean County, New Jersey
If you or your loved one has been arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey then you are currently facing serious penalties that include community service, mandatory probation, hefty fines, and possible incarceration. Shoplifting charges result from a variety of different actions and behaviors, and are often accompanied by other crimes such as Theft by Deception, Credit Card Fraud, Theft of Movable Property, Receiving Stolen Property and even Forgery charges. The use of stolen credit cards to buy merchandise, the alteration or switching of price tags, and the obvious theft from commercial retailers all classify as examples of shoplifting. If you have been charged with shoplifting in New Jersey, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will challenge the state’s case against you and work with the prosecution in an effort to secure a downgrade or even attain a dismissal altogether. At The Law Offices of Proetta & Oliver, our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys is dedicated to defending clients for criminal and municipal court charges that include shoplifting and related fraud and theft charges in courts across the state. We frequently represent clients throughout Ocean County, New Jersey who have been charged with the offense of shoplifting in Lakewood, Brick, Manahawkin, Waretown, Plumsted Township, Barnegat, Long Beach Township, and Point Pleasant Borough. To speak with an experienced Ocean County shoplifting defense attorney, feel free to contact our Point Pleasant office at (848) 238-2100 for a free consultation.
Shoplifting in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11(b)
The New Jersey statute for shoplifting is listed below, in pertinent part, for your reading convenience
§ 2C:20-11. Shoplifting
b. Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts:
(1) For any person purposely to take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof.
(2) For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.
(3) For any person purposely to alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment and to attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.
(4)For any person purposely to transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail merchandise establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the retail value thereof.
(5)For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof.
(6)For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.
Shoplifting Charges Degrees and Penalties in NJ
The most significant penalties attached to a shoplifting offense are probably jail time and fines. As set forth by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, the penalties for shoplifting in NJ are determined by the full retail value of the merchandise that was unlawfully taken from the store. The following are the amounts that determine shoplifting penalties:
$75,000 or more: 5-10 years in prison and $150k fine
$500 – $75,000: 3-5 years in prison and $15k fine
$200 – $500: up to 18 months in prison and $10k fine
Less than $200: up to 6 months in jail and $1k fine
Second Degree Shoplifting
Over $75,000 worth of merchandise
5 – 10 years in state prison; incarceration presumed
Third Degree Shoplifting
$500 – $75,000 worth of merchandise
3 – 5 years in state prison
Fourth Degree Shoplifting
$200 – $500 worth of merchandise
Up to 18 months in state prison
Disorderly Persons Offense Shoplifting
Under $200 of worth merchandise
Up to 6 months in county jail
As the above statute explains, a person will be charged with shoplifting if he or she steals merchandise from a retail store or conceals the merchandise while still within the store with the intent to steal. Moreover, many people are unaware that a shoplifting charge can escalate quickly into a charge of Robbery in the second degree. This occurs when force is used during the process of the shoplifting theft. For example, a defendant exits a store with stolen merchandise, and upon being confronted by a security guard, a struggle ensues. This is because the felony crime of robbery amounts to theft + force.
Shoplifting Qualifies as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude “C.I.M.T.”
If you are not a U.S. citizen, then a shoplifting conviction could have catastrophic consequences that go far beyond a prison sentence, fines, or community service. That’s because a conviction on a theft offense charge such as shoplifting can actually result in a non-citizen being deported from the United States. This is true even for a shoplifting charge at the lowest level of a disorderly persons offense, as stealing a pack of gum from a convenience store could result in your case being referred to immigration officials. To make matters worse, if you are convicted and sentenced to prison time for a shoplifting offense, you would first have to serve the prison sentence before being deported.
Community Service is Mandatory for Shoplifting Offenses in NJ
In addition to facing possible prison or jail time for a shoplifting conviction, the defendant could also be subject to other meaningful consequences. One example of a consequence that applies in your shoplifting case is a requirement to perform community service. That’s because the statute stipulates that anyone convicted of a shoplifting offense in New Jersey will be sentenced to perform at least 10 days of community service. Moreover, if the defendant has a prior shoplifting conviction or guilty plea on their record, then they will be considered a “habitual offender” and will be sentenced to at least 15 days of community service. For a third offense, the defendant can be sentenced to 25 days of community service and will be required to serve at least 90 days in jail.
What If I’m Charged with a First-Time Offense for Shoplifting?
If this is the first time you’ve been accused of shoplifting, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal with the prosecutor so that the charges against you are reduced or dismissed. For instance, if your shoplifting offense involved items of such little value that the offense is considered “de minimis,” then the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges in exchange for you paying a fine. Even if the shoplifting offense involved items with a higher value, it may be possible to work out a settlement with the store owner to pay restitution in exchange for dropping the charges against you.
A defendant charged with a first-time offense for shoplifting might also be able to secure admission into New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program. PTI is a diversionary program that is generally available to defendants who have no prior criminal record and who have been accused of a non-violent felony such as shoplifting or theft of movable property. If you are admitted into the PTI program, you will have the opportunity to receive a dismissal instead of being sentenced to jail time or having a conviction in your background. At the conclusion of the probationary period, the shoplifting charges will be dismissed, and there will be no record of a shoplifting conviction on your record. There is a similar program for municipal charges for shoplifting known as conditional dismissal.
Consult a Manchester NJ Shoplifting Defense Lawyer about Your Case
Shoplifting charges are often quite complicated and have many issues that must be resolved. These include intent, co-defendant issues, and the actual value of the merchandise that was stolen. William Proetta Esq., our firm’s founding attorney, has handled well over one thousand criminal and municipal charges including numerous shoplifting cases for clients across New Jersey. We will review and analyze the evidence of your case and work with the prosecution on your behalf in order to negotiate a downgraded plea or admittance into a diversion program such as Pre-Trial Intervention. We represent clients for shoplifting throughout Ocean County and New Jersey including Manchester, Seaside Park, Eagleswood Township, Ocean Gate, Island Heights, Harvey Cedars, and Beach Haven. If you or a family member has been charged with the crime of shoplifting in Ocean County, then please contact our office for a free consultation at (848) 238-2100.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. All major credit cards are accepted.