Dropping merchandise into a pocket and walking out of a store is the classic example of shoplifting. But in New Jersey there are other less obvious instances where you can be charged with the crime.
If you change or alter a price tag and then proceed to purchase the item at the lower cost, that too is a shoplifting offense. The act of moving merchandise from its original container to another container so as to get a lower price is considered to be shoplifting. Even if you remove a shopping cart from a store, and it can be proven you had the intention of depriving the merchant of the ability to use it, or benefit from its use, you can be charged with shoplifting.
Being convicted of shoplifting in New Jersey carries some unpleasant, and costly penalties. The punishment will largely depend upon the dollar amount of the merchandise that was stolen. These dollar amounts determine the “degree” of severity of the crime.
If the amount stolen is $75,000 or more the person is charged with a second degree crime and faces five to 10 years in jail and may also be required to pay a fine up to $150,000, or serve the time and pay the fine.
A third degree shoplifting crime is when the value of the item stolen is between $500 and $75,000. People convicted of these crimes get three to five years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
For those instances where someone is convicted of shoplifting an item valued between $200 and $500 the crime is fourth degree. Persons found guilty of this receive jail time up to 18 months and a fine up to $10,000, or both.
When the stolen item’s value is less than $200 the crime is termed, “disorderly person.” The penalties here include jail sentences up to six months, a fine of less than $1000, or both. People convicted of a disorderly persons crime are also required to pay $50, regardless of any other fines they are ordered to pay.
There are also some additional mandatory penalties for those persons who are first-time offenders, as well as for others who are repeat offenders.
First time offenders must serve at least 10 days of community service. Second time offenders are ordered to serve at least 15 days of community service, and third time offenders get a maximum of 25 days community service. Third time offenders are also required to serve a minimum of 90 days in jail. These particular penalties however are not imposed on juveniles.
Even though a person may serve the jail time, perform the community service, and pay the fine, the courts may still impose civil penalties. These penalties arise from the prosecutor requesting that restitution be ordered. In that event the court may require a person to repay the store for not only the cost of the goods taken, and the associated costs by the store in recovering the property, but also the store’s attorney and court costs.
Because of New Jersey’s criminal statutes a person who shoplifts could easily find the crime to be far more costly than the value of the item stolen. Suppose someone steals a DVD movie worth $15 and they are caught in the act. When convicted the judge could send them to jail for six months, fine them $999, and if they are a first time offender also require them to perform 10 days of community service. The person will also have to pay a $50 fine. If the prosecutor requests restitution, and the judge orders it, then the person could face hundreds more dollars in expenses to pay for the store’s merchandise, legal costs and court costs.
Even without restitution, the person’s cost for this act would be $1049, their lost wages while in jail, and their lost time while performing community service.