Former Prosecutor Defending Against Shoplifting Charges
Have you been charged with shoplifting? Did you take something without paying for it, possibly at the mall, retail store or another location? People from all walks of life can be charged with shoplifting. Some people steal for the thrill, others out of desire to own something expensive, or even out of hunger for food. Whatever the reason behind your charge, a conviction of shoplifting can lead to serious penalties.
I am Anthony N. Palumbo, Union County defense attorney and partner at The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo. Not only do I have over 35 years of criminal trial experience, but I am also a former shoplifting prosecutor, and my prior experience has helped me obtain thousands of favorable outcomes when defending individuals against shoplifting charges. If you’ve been charged or indicted for shoplifting, you need an attorney.
An experienced defense attorney can defend your case in any number of ways by proving you did not have the requisite intent for a conviction, excluding evidence at trial based on a violation of your rights, or by arguing down the value of the stolen item so that you receive a lighter sentence. Don’t end up behind bars, when you can have your charges dropped. While every case is different, I ensure the best possible outcome given the circumstances of your case. Contact me today for a free initial consultation at 908-643-6801 .
The Elements Of Shoplifting
There are several elements or building blocks that the prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction of shoplifting. First, you must act with the intent to deprive the owner of the item. Second, you must fail to pay the full price for the item. In addition, you must commit one of the following six acts:
- Take something from a store or somehow cause it to be carried away; or
- Conceal at item on yourself; or
- Change the label in order to indicate a different price; or
- Put something in a different item’s container; or
- Under-ring a customer (applies to employees); or
- Take a shopping cart from the premises.
Therefore, if you commit one of the above acts, with the intent to deprive the owner of the item (or money if you are a cashier), and you do not pay the full price of the item, you have committed shoplifting.
An attorney plays a very important role when defending your intent. Intent to deprive is required under the shoplifting statute and if your attorney can show that you did not have the proper intent when you took the item, the charges against you may be dismissed. However, if it can be shown that you did in fact take the item, that in itself will be prima facie evidence of your intent to deprive. Prima facie means that the court will assume you had the intent, and it will be up to your lawyer to prove that you did not have the intent by some other means. This is an example of another reason why it is so important to have an attorney.
Aside from the information above, if you are caught within a store or a place that sells merchandise and you have an anti-shoplifting device, you will have committed shoplifting. This constitutes a disorderly persons offense. An anti-shoplifting device is a device that demagnetizes security measures. For example, one kind of anti-shoplifting device may alter the bar codes on price tags.
To read the entire New Jersey Statute on Shoplifting see N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11.
Penalties If Convicted
You must be convicted of shoplifting in order to be subject to the penalties. The penalties that follow a conviction of shoplifting depend on the value of the merchandise that was stolen. The more expensive the merchandise was the greater penalty you will receive. The following list sets out the applicable penalties for shoplifting based on the value of the merchandise.
If the merchandise was $75,000 or more then:
- 2nd degree crime
- 5-10 years in prison
If the merchandise was more than $500 but less than $75,000 then:
- 3rd degree crime
- 3-5 years in prison
If the merchandise was between is more than $200, but less than $500 then:
- 4th degree crime
- Up to 18 months in prison
If the merchandise was less than $200 or you possess an anti-shoplifting device then:
- Disorderly person’s offense
- Up to 6 months in prison
It is important to note that if you commit shoplifting with others as a group, and the reason you shoplifted was in furtherance of a planned retail theft activity, then each person will be charged for the crimes of the entire group.
For example: Andrea, Tara, and Camille agree to go to the store and shoplift several items which they will sell at a pawn shop later. Andrea lifts $1,000 worth of merchandise, Tara lifts $200 worth of merchandise, and Camille lifts $500 worth of merchandise. Instead of being charged with individual offenses based on the amount of merchandise in question, each girl would be charged with a 3rd degree offense for lifting $1700 worth of merchandise, the total of the three girls’ items.
All first time offenders must perform at least 10 days of community service in addition to the penalties listed above.
The Process For Juveniles
When a minor child is charged with shoplifting, the legal process is different because it will be handled in Juvenile Court. Please click here for more information on Juvenile Offenses. Many people operate under the assumption that when a minor turns 18 his or her criminal record will automatically be expunged. This is a misconception. If your child has been charged with shoplifting, contact me today. We can talk about how your child’s record might be expunged and the process that lies ahead.
If you have previously been convicted of shoplifting, and you are later convicted another time, the penalties will be increased depending on how many times you have previously been convicted of Shoplifting. For a second offense, the penalties typically vary based on the value of merchandise. Offenders can expect at least 15 days of community service.
For a third or subsequent offense, penalties include:
- The general penalties based on the value of the merchandise; and
- Maximum of 25 days of community service; and
- At least 90 days in prison.
Detainment On Location
It is common for a person accused of shoplifting to be stopped on their way out of the store and accused of hiding something on their person. Under New Jersey Law, if the police have probable cause to believe that someone purposely concealed merchandise on their way out, that they have not paid for, the police can detain them on the store’s property for a reasonable period of time and in a reasonable manner. If an attorney can prove that the detention was conducted in an unreasonable manner or in an unreasonable period of time, this is a violation of constitutional rights and the attorney may be able to have the charges dismissed. An experienced attorney will know whether someone’s rights have been violated and how to protect them. This is just one reason why it is so important to have an experienced attorney.
I am Anthony N. Palumbo, former prosecutor and experienced shoplifting defense attorney. Before I was a shoplifting defense attorney, I was a shoplifting prosecutor for major corporate franchises. I know both sides of the law and my prior experience as a shoplifting prosecutor has helped me successfully defend thousands of shoplifting cases.
Fighting Against Severe Penalties
If you have been charged with shoplifting, I can help. I will fight for you, and do everything possible to ensure the charges are dropped, or you receive the lightest penalty possible for your conviction. A conviction of shoplifting can put you behind bars for 10 years. Contact me today and let’s talk about your case. As part of my services, I offer every client a free initial consultation at 908-643-6801 . Call now and I’ll give you an honest assessment of the penalties you are facing.