If you’ve been charged with shoplifting, you’re likely scared, intimidated, embarrassed, and unsure of what to do next. First things first — find yourself a criminal lawyer in Hamilton Township, NJ, to represent you in court and help you navigate the complexities of the criminal court system. Here are some FAQs about shoplifting in New Jersey to give you a bit of insight into what you can expect going forward.
What constitutes shoplifting in New Jersey?
There are five different acts that are construed as shoplifting under criminal law in New Jersey. The most common of these is purposefully taking merchandise, which is basically what you think of when you think of the act of shoplifting. Shoplifting also includes the concealment of merchandise, transferring or altering a price tag, under-ringing merchandise at the register, or transferring merchandise to another container.
What burden of proof do prosecutors have for shoplifting convictions?
A strong shoplifting case requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant was seen approaching the merchandise in question, picked up or selected the item(s), carried the item(s) away or concealed them, and failed to pay. Another witness or the merchant must have stayed in continuous observation with the suspected shoplifter the whole time, and the shoplifter must be approached by the merchant or an officer upon leaving the store.
What are potential penalties and fines for shoplifting in New Jersey?
The penalties and fines you face as a defendant in a shoplifting case depend upon the value of the goods stolen, the circumstances surrounding the theft, and whether or not you have been charged with the same or similar offense in the past.
If the value of the merchandise stolen is less than $200, then you may be charged with disorderly persons shoplifting, which comes with a maximum fine of $1,000 and maximum incarceration period of six months. Keep in mind that sentencing is at the judge’s discretion with these types of guidelines. Fines and jail time continue to go up based on the severity of the offense and the value of property stolen. For example, second-degree shoplifting of more than $75,000 can yield up to a $150,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail.
What happens at my first court date?
Your first court date is an arraignment where you must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, typically in municipal court. By this stage, your lawyer may have already negotiated a plea with the prosecutor, such as reduced charges or community service in lieu of jail.
Do I have to pay a civil demand letter for shoplifting?
The answer is probably. Accused shoplifters are often sent this type of letter by stores victimized by shoplifting, attempting to recoup their damages. Speak to your lawyer before you pay since it is sometimes possible to negotiate for a lower payment.