What is Shoplifting?
Stealing from stores is a crime so old that the term shoplifting was coined way back in the 17th century. Since then, there have been a variety of laws across all nations and cultures to punish those who take things that they do not want to pay for. In modern America, there are multiple angles to consider when it comes to shoplifting punishments and how to discourage would-be thieves from taking things from a store’s shelves, both criminal and civil. Here is a brief guide to the laws and consequences of shoplifting.
New Jersey Shoplifting Laws
Punishment for shoplifting in New Jersey is based on the value of the item or items taken and whether or not the offender has committed the crime before. The most serious charge is a second degree charge, where the item is worth $75,000 or more. The resultant punishment is a hefty fine and five to 10 years in prison. A third degree charge (items worth $501 to $74,999) carries a fine and three to five years in prison, while a fourth degree charge ( items worth $200 to $500) also carries a fine and up to 18 months in prison.
Anything valued under that amount is a disorderly persons charge (also known as a misdemeanor), which can carry fines and up to 6 months in prison. First time offenders are required to perform 10 days of community service, and repeat offenders can be issued a higher punishment, fines, and more community service time. First time offenders for lesser charges are often offered the chance to pay a fine and perform community service without spending time behind bars, but subsequent convictions will not afford them the same in most cases.
Civil Concerns: The Shopkeeper’s Privilege
The law also recognizes the right for a store and its employees to stop and safely detain a person they suspect of shoplifting. This is known as the shopkeeper’s privilege and is normally upheld by courts as long as the detainment is reasonable. Using unnecessary force or keeping a suspected shoplifter for an unreasonable amount of time can open up the business to civil liability. If a security guard hits or harms a suspect with no self-defense reasoning, the store can be sued for assault and battery.
If a person is kept in a locked room for hours without being able to call someone like the police or a lawyer, they can file a suit for false imprisonment. The word to remember in these cases is reasonableness. It is reasonable for a store manager to briefly stop a customer to ask to see a bag if an employee saw them put a store item into it and walk out without visiting the register. Make sure to train all employees on shoplifting protocol, especially managers and security personnel to make sure they don’t open the business up to civil liability. And remember, if you think an encounter might be getting too serious or confrontational, call your local police and have them handle the situation.
Contact A Cherry Hill Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Theft Crime Case in New Jersey Today
Were you arrested or charged with a theft crime in New Jersey, or dealing with a civil case related to a shoplifting occurrence? The consequences could be severe, costing you money or sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The experienced lawyers at Attorneys Hartman, Chartered assist clients with shoplifting charges and other legal issues. We represent clients throughout New Jersey. Call us anytime at (856) 235-0220 or (856) 812-8033, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. Our main office is located at 68 E. Main Street Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.