Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Was Caught Shoplifting?


Shoplifting is a Serious Offense in NJ

Shoplifting is a very serious offense.   Depending on the facts of your case you might go to jail, although fines or community service are more likely.  Whatever your sentence turns out to be, however, if you are found guilty, you are now in the criminal justice system as a criminal with a jacket.  This can effect future opportunities for you when you apply for a job or to get an apartment.  Even a future spouse can look up your criminal record

New Jersey shop owners and department stores are  installing security cameras, training staff, and using detection devices in order to crack down on shoplifting.  You are taking a huge risk with your future even if the item you take is not very expensive.

All of the following are included in the definition of shoplifting:

  • Taking an item out of the store intending to deprive the merchant of the value of the item without paying its value.  You must be shown to have done this intentionally, not accidentally.
  • Concealing products clearly available for sale in the store.  In other words, you don't always have to have left the store to be charged.  You must be shown to have intentionally concealed the item or items.
  • Altering or removing a price tag and trying to buy the item at less than the value originally shown on the tag.
The merchant or a mall security officer must have a reasonable belief that you have shoplifted the item or are about to shoplift the item or items.  If you are seen placing items under your shirt or in a shopping bag or coat pocket, that would consititute probable cause to arrest. One thing an attorney will help you determine in a shoplifting case, is whether or not there was probably cause.

What Are the Possible Charges in Your Shoplifting Case?
  • Shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense if the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $200.
  • 4th degree: When the full retail value of the merchandise is at least $200 but not over  $500.
  • 3rd degree shoplifting: if you are charged with shoplifting merchandise with a value in excess of  $500 but less than $75,000, or if you are part of a ring or organized group, and the value is less than $1000
  • 2nd degree shoplifting: if the full retail value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more, or if you are part of an organized shoplifting ring or group, and the full retail value of the merchandise is $1,000 or more.

Penalties for shoplifting can include fines and jail time PLUS:

  • 1st offense, at least 10 days of community service
  • 2nd offense, at least 15 days of community service
  • 3rd or subsequent offense, a maximum of 25 days of community service
If you are convicted a third time, there is a minimum 90 days imprisonment.

You can see that shoplifting is serious.  You are not just taking something that the "rich owner won't miss."  Shoplifting is stealing.  And the courts are not going easy.  If you have been caught shoplifting, give us a call at Aretsky and Aretsky.  We can help.
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