Who “Knew” Jersey had some of the toughest shoplifting laws in the country, honestly? Apparently the New Jersey shoplifters, who let a lot of legal tidbits slip through their fingers, did not. The Jersey laws are quite captivating to say the least. We all know when you march out a store with merchandise you have not paid for, you will eventually pay a price. But how about stuffing an item in your pocket, then before leaving the store you get cold feet. Suddenly, your thoughts are to put the item down and leave the premises. According to New Jersey law, hiding merchandise on your body or carrying something with the intention of not paying for it is considered an act of shoplifting. Intent is the key word here. Any inkling of suspicion shown in regard to removing merchandise from the store without payment could be your fine line to conviction. Note: There is a presumption in the law that states: if un-purchased merchandise hidden on someone or within their belongings is discovered, he or she hid it deliberately with intentions of not paying for it.
There are other widely known acts of shoplifting in New Jersey, and other states including removing, altering, or transferring price tags with intentions of paying less than the advertised price; and transferring merchandise from the container it was originally displayed in to another container for the purpose of buying both items for the price of one. How many people have you seen or known, probably unbeknownst to them, using store owned shopping carts to wheel their legal purchases to a destination of choice not realizing they are removing store property from the premises? In New Jersey that shoplifting.
Store owners, in New Jersey are granted the right to take someone into to custody in a reasonable manner, and for a reasonable amount of time. If the store owner believes a “shopper/lifter” is deliberately hiding un-purchased merchandise on his or her person, and that he can recover the suspect merchandise by taking them into custody, he will be free of any criminal or civil liability. “Detain them in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable amount of time” can be quite a touchy situation. If the store owner notices a shoplifter leaving the premises, he should first ask them to return to the store and escort them to a private area. Tell the person what this is all about. Namely, the item they have not paid for. At no time should the store owner place a hand on the suspected shoplifter. However, if the suspect shoplifter tries to hit you or run, you can use reasonable force to restrain, without escalating the situation. If the suspect shoplifter refuses to come with you, you may have to let them go. Be sure to get a good description, and license plate number, then call police. If you manage to take them into to custody, phone the authorities right away. If the suspect is under the age of 18, call the parents.
New Jersey store owners should adhere to a few of these “probable cause” items:
*witness the shoplifter approach, select, and conceal your merchandise.
*maintain uninterrupted visual contact of the shoplifter
* notice shoplifter’s failure to pay for merchandise
*approach shoplifter outside of store, or according to security standards contact may be made if shoplifter is past the cash register.
Restitution to store owners is not guaranteed. They may request restitution be ordered, but it is entirely up to the judge. Any losses incurred may have to be absorbed by the store owner.
Penalties for shoplifting largely depends of the “full retail value” of the merchandise in question.
*2nd Degree-$75,000 or more-5/10 years prison-fine up to $150,000
*3rd Degree-$500 but less than $75,000-3/5 years prison-fine up to $15,000
*4th Degree-$200 to $500-up to18 months prison-fine up to $10,000
*Disorderly persons offence-under $200-up to 6 months prison-fine up to $1000
Some lesser mandatory penalties are:
*1st offence, at least 10 days of community service
*2nd offence, at least 15 days of community service
*3rd or subsequent offence, up to 25 days of community service and imprisonment for no less than 90 days