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Shoplifting Offenses


Shoplifting 2C:20-11

Shoplifting Charges in Bridgewater, Watchung and Westfield New Jersey

Criminal Defense Lawyer James A. Abate maintains offices in Bridgewater, Westfield and Piscataway.  As a result, Mr. Abate regularly represents individuals charged with shoplifting in Bridgewater Commons Mall, the Westfield shopping district (Lord and Taylor, The Gap, Victoria Secret, Coach, Nirvana, Janie and Jack), the Blue Star Shopping Center in Watchung (Kohl’s) and the Watchung Square Mall (Target, Walmart, Old Navy, Steinmart). Mr. Abate also handles shoplifting cases in Woodbridge and Hunterdon County. This is important because handling a shoplifting charge in a “mall town” requires special relationships with the municipal prosecutor, police and the store representatives.

Because we regularly handle shoplifting cases in Bridgewater, Hunterdon, Westfield, Watchung and Woodbridge, we are capable of giving each case the expertise and attention it deserves, and have the relationships with store security and law enforcement personnel to affect the outcome of your case. Mr. Abate is an attorney with over 10 years of experience defending cases in the Municipal and Superior Courts of Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Middlesex and Union Counties, as well as in other local areas.

Shoplifting Statute

Shoplifting is governed by Title 2C, section 20-11 of New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11). A Shoplifting case can be charged in the Superior Court as an indictable crime or “downgraded” to the municipal court.  An arrest or conviction to either offense can be fatal to future job or immigration prospects. Dishonesty is the biggest red flag that human resources managers and immigrations officials look to avoid, so avoiding a theft offense in your background is essential. Shoplifting is graded and punished based on the retail value of the merchandise allegedly taken. The offense requires intent to deprive the merchant of the possession, use, benefit, or partial value of the merchandise through any one of the following acts:

  • Taking hold, carrying away, or transferring merchandise for sale
  • Hiding, concealing, or converting merchandise without paying
  • Altering, transferring, or removing any labels indicating value
  • Deactivating any anti-shoplifting or inventory control device
  • Personally trying or conspiring to pay less than retail value
  • Transferring from display or storage to another container
  • Charging less or under-ringing merchandise at register
  • Removing shopping cart without consent from store

Grading Offenses

New Jersey law grades shoplifting based on the item’s value. The seriousness of the offense increases inversely to degree. There may be diversionary programs at each level, such as conditional dismissal or pre-trial intervention.  For more information, please see our article The State of Shoplifting.

2nd Degree full retail value of $75,000 or more imprisonment of 5-10 years fine up to $150,000
3rd Degree full retail value of over $500 but less than $75,000 imprisonment of 3-5 years fine up to $15,000
4th Degree full retail value of between $200 and $500 imprisonment up to 18 months fine up to $10,000
Disorderly Persons Offense full retail value of under $200 imprisonment up to 6 months fine up to $1,000

 

Fourth Degree and Disorderly Persons Offense

4th Degree Shoplifting N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11c(3) shoplifting is a fourth degree criminal offense if the value is between $200 and $500 and handled in the Superior Court. If the value is less than $200, it is treated as a “disorderly persons” offense and handled in the Municipal Court. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11c(4), shoplifting may be “downgraded” to a lesser offense or qualify for a less severe penalty unless it involves a third or subsequent fourth degree offense. The difference in grade is significant. Fourth degree shoplifting has a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines. A “disorderly persons” offense has a maximum of 6 months in jail and fine at maximum $1,000. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3c. Pre-Trial Intervention and Conditional Dismissal may be available to avoid a theft offense from appearing on your background for a first time offense.

Downgrading to Disorderly Persons

In addition to grade, punishment also depends upon the person’s criminal history. A first offense, for example, requires at least 10 days of community service while a third offense can require up to 25 day.  This is in addition to imprisonment. Further, shoplifting generally cannot be downgraded to “disorderly persons” offenses except under the following criteria:

  • Second degree offenses can never be downgraded
  • Third degree: value less than $2,000 and trial proof issues
  • Fourth degree: at prosecutor’s discretion; however, not possible if repeat offender with three or more shoplifting convictions

If you have been charged with Shoplifiting, 2C:20-11, please contact us at (908) 210-9755, by email to Jabatelaw@gmail.com, or by completing the form under the “Contact Us” tab on this site.  James A. Abate handles cases of this nature every week, and wants to help you navigate through this uncharted territory.  We serve Hunterdon, Somerset, Union, Morris, Essex and Middlesex Counties, and will provide you with the expert legal counsel and advice you need.

Get your questions answered – call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (908) 210-9755