Shoplifting is punished more harshly across the United States than people may expect, with jail time, fines, and a criminal record following defendants for many years after the original court case for shoplifting. If you’ve been accused of shoplifting in New Jersey, your first step should be to call a Bergen County theft lawyer. We have extensive experience helping clients in situations likely very similar to yours, and we will bring that experience to get you the best result possible. Another useful step is to read this blog post, as it will explain possible penalties for shoplifting in New Jersey as well as what you can expect in a New Jersey shoplifting trial.
How Is Shoplifting Punished in New Jersey?
Shoplifting is either a disorderly persons offense or an indictable offense in New Jersey, increasing with the severity of the theft involved. Penalties start with a fine and a maximum of six months in jail, when the goods taken equal $200 in value or less. The higher the value of items stolen, the harsher the penalties threatened.
The charges for shoplifting increase as follows:
- Disorderly persons offense: a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail when the stolen goods are worth up to $200
- Fourth-degree offense: a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail when the stolen goods worth between $200 and $500
- Third-degree offense: a fine of up to $15,000 and up to 5 years in prison when stolen goods are worth between $500 and $75,000.
- Second-degree offense: a fine of up to $150,000 and up to 10 years in jail when the stolen goods are worth more than $75,000.
What Is the Process to Get My Charges Dismissed?
It is possible to get your shoplifting charges dismissed. This section will explain what the trial process is like typically and what usually happens when charges get dismissed.
Upon being arrested, your visit appearance in court will be for an arraignment. At your arraignment, the court will formally charge you and you will enter your plea. Should you plead not guilty, the court sets the terms of your release and your trial date. Defendants most often plead not guilty at their arraignment, though when their attorney negotiates a plea deal, they will plead guilty as per the plea deal and in exchange for a lesser penalty.
A not-guilty plea means the trial will be underway. The prosecutor presents the case against you and your defense attorney will argue in your favor, challenging the prosecutor’s evidence and presenting evidence in your favor. After having heard both sides, the court issues a verdict.
In some cases, whatever was stolen had such low value that the court considers the prosecution to not be worth the state’s time. Your attorney will ask the judge to dismiss your case when that happens, often before the trial even starts.
Another helpful possibility occurs when store employees or security guards don’t appear in court. The court gives them a chance to appear in court to argue against you, and if they don’t appear the first time, the judge will schedule a second court date. If the accusers don’t appear in court a second time, chances are ripe for your attorney to get your charges dismissed.