Shoplifting is not that bad…Right? Wrong. Many people believe that if they are caught shoplifting then they just have to repay the value of the merchandse or give the merchandise back. Wrong again. Shoplifting can cost you more than you think. Understand that shoplifting in New Jersey is a serious offense and carries severe penalties. New Jersey law states that all shoplifters will be prosecuted to the extent of the law regardless of whether the retailer retains counsel. The fllowing sums up how shoplifting can cost more than what you may think.
All penalties for shoplifting are based on full retail value. Full retail value can dramatically change the seriousness of the charges. Full retail value is not necessarily the price of the merchandise at the time of the offense. For example, the item(s) shoplifted was on sale for $199.99 but the full retail value is 500.01. The shoplifter will face the penalties associated with the higher value. In this example, it becomes a third degree offense instead of a disorderly person offense.
Here is a look at the different levels of offenses and the penalties associated with them.
Disorderly Person’s Offense
If the full value of the merchandise is $199.99 or less then the penalties are up to 6 months imprisonment AND up to $1000 fine.
Fourth Degree Shoplifting
If the full retail value is between $200 and $500 then the penalties are up to 18 months imprisonment AND up to a $10,000 fine.
Third Degree Shoplifting
If the full retail value is between $500.01 and $74,999.99 then the penalties are 3 to 5 years imprisonment AND up to a $15,000 fine.
Second Degree Shoplifting
If the full retail value is $75,000 or over then the penalties are 5 -10 years imprisonment AND a fine of up to $150,000.
Additional Mandatory Penalties
These penalties are the law and the judge has to impose them. For a first offense, at least 10 days of community service will be added in addition to the penalties outlined above. For a second offense, at least 15 days of community service will be added and for a third or subsequent offense, up to 25 days of community service AND imprisonment for NO LESS than 90 days will be added to the penalties that are outlined above.
The Aggregate Effect
New Jersey law allows offenses to be aggregate. Meaning that the full value of offenses can be ADDED together, resulting in a more serious charge and subsequent penalties. For example, a person is arrested for shoplifting in three different stores over the course of the day. The prosecutor has the option of adding all of the retail values together and charge the shoplifter with a more serious offense.
The aggregate effect can also be used, if there are more than two individuals working together. For example, Bob, Tom, and Ron agree to shoplift different items at a store. Bob takes a $198 item, Tom takes a $198 item and Ron is apprehended with a $198 item. Ron confesses to the plot and Bob and Tom are arrested. All three defendants will be charged with Third degree shoplifting because the total amount of all three items is $594. As opposed to the Disorderly Conduct charge, they would be charged with if they had acted alone.
New Jersey law allows the retailer to bring a civil suit against the shoplifter in all cases where the value of the stolen merchandise is under $500 and the retailer can also seek attorney’s fees and court costs from the defendant. The following example illustrates the full effect of all penalties and civil suits.
If a shoplifter is caught with an item, or items, that have a full retail value of $400 and this is a first offense, this is what could happen. The charge is fourth degree shoplifting and carries a penalty of up to 18 months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. In addition to that, New Jersey law allows the retailer to seek a civil suit for the cost of the item and any attorney’s fees and court costs associated with the civil suit. Finally, there is a mandatory sentence of at least 10 days of community service.
Do not count on striking a deal with the prosecutor to down grade a shoplifting offense. There are strict guidelines in place for the prosecutors to follow.
Know Your Rights
Both retailers and persons charged with shoplifting have rights. If a shoplifting crime has occurred, contact an attorney for legal advice on your rights.
You may have thought of shoplifting as no big deal. You may have thought that shoplifting does not cost you much but as outlined above, shoplifting has severe penalties and cost thousands of dollars, community service, and jail time. This is a lot more than just paying for the merchandise or returning it to the retailer.