New Jersey Shoplifting Defense Attorney
New Jersey Courts have become much tougher on shoplifting defendants. However, there are options available to mitigate the harsh consequences of a shoplifting charge, including creative plea negotiation, motion, and trial.
A first and second offense shoplifting conviction carry mandatory community service and a third offense conviction requires that you serve 90 days in jail. If the amount of merchandise is over $200, the charge is elevated to an indictable (felony) offense. Non-citizens need to be especially careful, as shoplifting is considered a crime involving moral turpitude for immigration purposes. I have handled many shoplifting cases throughout the state, give my office a call anytime for a consultation.
Examples of Shoplifting Charges
Shoplifting Case Example 1
In one well-known case, a Customer had billing dispute with a drug store. The dispute was regarding the cost of photo processing. The customer took the finished photographs without paying for them. But he gave his name and address to the store manager. The customer was improperly found guilty of shoplifting. Photo processing constituted a service. Therefore, the store was not acting as a merchant when it contracted to develop the customer’s film. The photographs were not merchandise. Because they lacked value to anyone other than the customer and were not salable. Plus, by leaving the contact information, the customer could not be deemed to have purposely taken possession of the purported merchandise with the intention of converting the same to his own use without paying. State v. Goodman.
Shoplifting Case Example 2
Trial judge did not err in finding that coupons function as an important component of goods so as to qualify as “merchandise” within the meaning of the shoplifting statute. Liptak v. Rite Aid.
Shoplifting Case Example 3
Dismissal of shoplifting charges pursuant to the de minimis statute, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:2-11(b). This was a mistaken exercise of discretion because defendant’s conduct. This involved the taking of a hair bow from a store without paying. This clearly caused the harm sought to be prevented by the shoplifting statute. Because the factors relied upon by the trial judge revealed little, if any, basis to support a finding of triviality. Those factors failed to distinguish defendant’s shoplifting offense from any other shoplifting offense. Because shoplifting was considered a serious offense, the risk of harm to society of defendant’s conduct was significant. State v. Evans.
Shoplifting Case Example 4
In another case the defendant was a student. He was accused of shoplifting three pieces of bubble gum. It was held that he was entitled to dismissal of the charge because the student’s conduct was de minimis within the meaning of the shoplifting law. State v. Smith.
Shoplifting Case Example 5
Security guard properly arrested a shoplifter, because the guard was a law enforcement officer. As such, he could arrest without warrant any person she had probable cause for believing had committed the offense of shoplifting. In this instance, the offense occurred within the presence of the guard. State v. Ferraro.
New Jersey Shoplifting Laws and Statute
Definitions. The following definitions apply to this section:
- “Shopping cart” means those push carts of the type or types which are commonly provided by grocery stores, drug stores or other retail mercantile establishments. These are placed for the use of the public in transporting commodities in stores and markets and, incidentally, from the stores to a place outside the store;
- “Store or other retail mercantile establishment” means a place where merchandise is displayed, held, stored or sold or offered to the public for sale;
- “Merchandise” means any goods, chattels, foodstuffs or wares of any type and description, regardless of the value thereof;
- “Merchant” means any owner or operator of any store or other retail mercantile establishment, or any agent, servant, employee, lessee, consignee, officer, director, franchisee or independent contractor of such owner or proprietor;
- “Person” means any individual or individuals, including an agent, servant or employee of a merchant where the facts of the situation so require;
- “Conceal” means to conceal merchandise so that, although there may be some notice of its presence, it is not visible through ordinary observation;
- “Full retail value” means the merchant’s stated or advertised price of the merchandise;
- “Premises of a store or retail mercantile establishment.” This means and includes but is not limited to, the retail mercantile establishment; any common use areas in shopping centers and all parking areas set aside by a merchant or on behalf of a merchant for the parking of vehicles for the convenience of the patrons of such retail mercantile establishment;
- “Under-ring” means to cause the cash register or other sale recording device to reflect less than the full retail value of the merchandise;
- “Antishoplifting or inventory control device countermeasure” means any item or device which is designed, manufactured, modified. This also applies if the device is altered to defeat any antishoplifting or inventory control device;
- “Organized retail theft enterprise” means any association of two or more persons who engage in the conduct of or are associated for the purpose of effectuating the transfer or sale of shoplifted merchandise.
b. Shoplifting. Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts:
- Any person purposely taking possession of store merchandise. This includes carrying away, transferring or causing an item to be carried away or transferred. This applies to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment. This must include the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession. It may also include use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant. This applies to anything less than the full retail value of the item.
- It is a criminal offense to 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. It is also illegal to use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.
- Altering, transferring or removing labels or price tags. This also includes any marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value of any merchandise. This applies to items displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment. This also applies to any attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or with another at less than the full retail value. This must include the intention of stealing. “Stealing” means depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.
Other Types of Shoplifting Offenses
- 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.
- For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof.
- For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment. This requires being done without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal. It also must coincide with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.
Degree of Offense
- Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the second degree under subsection b. of this section. This applies where the full retail value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more. This also applies if the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise. The full retail value of the merchandise must be $1,000 or more under this subsection.
- This offense constitutes a crime of the third degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds $500 but is less than $75,000. This also applies when the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise. There is a requirement however that the full retail value of the merchandise be than $1,000.
- Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the fourth degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is at least $200 but does not exceed $500.
- This charge is a disorderly persons offense under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $200.
The value of the merchandise involved in a violation of this section may be aggregated. This can be done to determine the grade of the offense where the acts or conduct constituting a violation were committed under certain circumstances. This applies to one scheme or course of conduct. It does not matter whether the same person or several persons were involved. It also does not matter if committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise.
Mandatory Community Service
Additionally, notwithstanding the possibility of jail, a shoplifting offense carries mandatory community service. For a first offense, at least ten days of community service; for a second offense, at least 15 days of community service; and for a third or subsequent offense, a maximum of 25 days of community service and any person convicted of a third or subsequent shoplifting offense shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 90 days.
Other Legal Implications
d. Presumptions. A presumption of intent to steal can apply in some cases. This includes when a person purposely conceals unpurchased merchandise of any store or other retail mercantile establishment. This can apply either on the premises or outside the premises of such store or other retail mercantile establishment. Finding such merchandise concealed upon the person or among the belongings of such person can lead to a presumption of guilt. If such person conceals, or causes to be concealed, such merchandise upon the person or among the belongings of another, the finding of the same shall also be prima facie evidence of willful concealment on the part of the person so concealing such merchandise.
e. A law enforcement officer who has probable cause for believing that a person has willfully concealed unpurchased merchandise and that he can recover the merchandise by taking the person into custody can take immediate action. This also applies to a special officer, or a merchant. Such a person may take the person into custody and detain him in a reasonable manner for not more than a reasonable time. The arrest by a law enforcement officer or special officer or merchant shall not render such person criminally or civilly liable in any manner or to any extent whatsoever.
Any law enforcement officer may arrest without warrant any person he has probable cause for believing has committed the offense of shoplifting as defined in this section.
A merchant who causes the arrest of a person for shoplifting may be immune from liability. They shall not be criminally or civilly liable in any manner or to any extent whatsoever. This applies where the merchant has probable cause for believing that the person arrested committed the offense of shoplifting.
f. Any person who possesses or uses any anti-shoplifting or inventory control device countermeasure within any store or other retail mercantile establishment is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
Our New Jersey Shoplifting Lawyer Is Here For You
At The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC we have worked on many criminal defense cases including shoplifting charges. Contact us today for a free consultation with New Jersey shoplifting lawyer Anthony J. Vecchio, Esq.