Is A Shoplifting Charge Really That Big A Deal?
There are shoplifters of opportunity, there are shoplifters of desire, and then there are shoplifters of psychosis, which means there are people who are driven to shoplift and steal. It is a mental illness and an addiction that does not care what the person steals. A model who was becoming well-known on the east coast was arrested for stealing razors and eggs. They were items she could certainly afford but she was just addicted to the thrill of stealing.
There are shoplifters of necessity, and that happens because the person needs something or their kids need clothes, they need to feed the family, or they need to get someone a present. We had a client who wanted to get a present for his grandmother but did not have any money, so he shoplifted. There are also people who are shoplifters of desire. The item is something that is just so awesome that they want it. Somebody working in the stock room of a store would not miss their chance when they saw all those video games.
The main areas are desire, necessity and psychosis but there is of course opportunity, and that happens when somebody leaves a watch or a wallet out, and the person thinks nobody is looking or thinking nobody will miss it, so they take it. It is tough for people to be tempted and not fall into temptation at some points.
Does The Severity Of The Penalty For Shoplifting Depend On The Dollar Amount Stolen?
Yes, it does depend on the amount stolen. Anything under $200 is generally dealt with as a disorderly person’s offense or a misdemeanor, $200-$400 is a fourth-degree, $400-$1000 is a third-degree and $1,000-$10,000 is a second-degree offense. It usually ends up being another crime when it involves an amount above that. There is nothing worse a person can have on their record, than being a thief, being dishonest and not being trustworthy. When someone applies for a job, their employer will need someone they can trust with their business and their money. They would consider a drug addict or someone who has been violent before because anybody can have a bad day. An employer can take a drunk but they will not take a thief.
When someone rents out an apartment, they can look at all sorts of people whom they do not want in their dwelling. The drunk, violent person or the drug dealer might cause trouble, and they might damage property, which is not good, but the thief, the dishonest person, might move out in the middle of the night and leave the house or just stop paying the rent. Also, as far as immigration issues go it is worse than having bad credit. The two worst things that a person can be if they are trying to get naturalized in the United States is to either be a thief or a prostitute. Those are two crimes of moral depravity that question a person’s honesty and their ability to be a good person.
A person will need to keep these types of offenses off their record whether or not they go to jail. The big issue is not whether or not a person pays fines, it is whether the person has it on their record, and there are a lot of tools that can be used to resolve these cases so that it stays off the person’s record. Someone without an attorney may assume they will not go to jail for a particular crime, so they consider just pleading guilty. These people diminish their quality of life considerably and have less opportunity to pay back the fines that they have now racked up, and those fines can be considerable.
For misdemeanor shoplifting, a person would be looking at a $1,000 fine, for a fourth degree, they would be looking at a fine up to $5,000. A third degree can be up to $100,000, and a second degree can be up to a $500,000 fine, so this involves large amounts of money that have to get paid back, and a person would not be able to do that if they are unemployable.
Will A Person’s Family Or Work Place Find Out About A Shoplifting Charge Right Away?
Anyone can find out. A person gets a criminal arrest record when they are arrested, which is accessible to anyone and everyone. If the person gets a conviction, they will now have a conviction record, and keeping the conviction off their record would be very important because of how it interplays with a procedure called expungement. An expungement essentially means erasing certain aspects of a person’s criminal record. We can have the arrest and the conviction erased so that it does not show, and an order is issued to the state police and to background agencies that they must remove the criminal offenses from their records, and then the person would be permitted legally in the state of New Jersey to say that they had never committed a crime if someone asked about that. Expungement is very powerful but there are certain criteria that a person has to meet and it has to be forcibly advocated by the person’s attorney, but that is certainly a possibility.
Should A Person Sign A Civil Demand Letter Or Should They Let Their Attorney Know About It?
The person should consult with their attorney to know the full situation. There are some times when a civil demand makes sense but there are some times where it does not make sense. If a person was going to go through with it, they may be able to negotiate and keep themselves off the retail theft database. This is important so that if they decided to apply for a retail job at some time, they would not be turned down right off. They would also not have to worry about this information getting into the wrong hands if the retail theft database got hacked and that information was released to the world. It may sound fanciful but it happens every day now.
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