Shoplifting is a commonly charged crime. The charge applies to items for sale stolen from stores or retail establishment. The offense is defined in 2C: 20-11. And can range from a disorderly persons offense up to a 2nd degree crime depending on the value of the item and the manner in which it was taken
There are several ways in which shoplifting can be charged. The simplest is simply taking the item out of the store depriving the merchant of the benefit of that item without paying for it. You can also be charged with shoplifting if you conceal an item with intent to deprive the merchant of its value. Keep in mind that there is a presumption that you intended to deprive the merchant of its value if you are caught concealing it.
A person can be charged with shoplifting if they attempt to change the price on an item. I have noticed that this method of charging shoplifting is becoming more common. A person can be charged this way if they alter the price on a label or simply switch the label. Similarly one can be charged with shop lifting if they transfer the item to another container with a cheaper price. In fact any action which causes the cashier to “under ring” the value of the item can constitute shoplifting. Keep in mind that these actions must also be done with intent to deprive the store of the items value.
Lastly it should be noted that removing a shopping cart from a store without consent of the store is a crime if you don’t intend to return it.
The degree of crime of shoplifting depends on the value of the items stolen and whether it was part of an “organized retail theft enterprise.” And organized retail theft enterprise (ORTE) is defined as an association of two or more people to sell shoplifted items. Shoplifting is a second degree crime if the retail value of the items is $75,000.00 or more, or if it is part of an ORTE and the value is $1,000.00 or more. Shoplifting is third degree crime the retail value is between $500.00 and $75,000.00, or it is part of an ORTE and the value is less than $1,000.00. Shoplifting is a crime of the fourth degree if the retail value of the item is between $200.00 and $500.00.Shoplifting is a Disorderly Persons Offense if the retail value is less than $200.00
Shoplifting is one of those crimes which carry some mandatory minimums which often catch people off guard. Community service is mandatory. First offenses a minimum of 10 days is required. Second offenses require 15 days community service. A third offense has a maximum of 25 days community service but also carries a mandatory 90 days in jail!
It is important to note that shoplifting charges often have defenses to them. The law makes an allowance for shop keepers to detain people if they have probable cause that a shoplifting occurred. Most of the time, the facts supporting the charge are not given by the police themselves but by the workers of the store. This means that the shopkeeper becomes a necessary witness and must be produced for trial. As shopkeepers are far from legal professionals, they commonly make mistakes which could lead to a downgrade or even a dismissal. Don’t simply go to court without representation on a shoplifting charge. Call my office at (732) 742-5556. I will be happy to discuss your case with you. As always, first consultations are free.