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How Serious is a Third-Degree Shoplifting Offense for First-Time Offenders in NJ?

Facing a shoplifting charge in New Jersey can be a daunting experience, especially if it's your first encounter with the legal system. The state takes shoplifting offenses seriously, with the law imposing potentially severe penalties even on first-time offenders. This article provides an in-depth look at the legal implications of a third-degree shoplifting charge in New Jersey, and the crucial role of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in navigating these charges.

What Constitutes Third-Degree Shoplifting in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, shoplifting is defined as purposely taking merchandise from a store without paying the full price or without paying at all. This includes actions such as:

  • Physically removing merchandise from a store.
  • Concealing merchandise with the intent to steal.
  • Altering or transferring price tags to pay less than the full value.
  • Under-ringing merchandise at a self-checkout or through an accomplice at checkout.

A third-degree shoplifting charge is applicable when the value of the stolen merchandise is between $500 and $75,000. Despite being a first-time offender, being charged with a third-degree offense is significant because it introduces the possibility of a felony record and substantial penalties.

The legal repercussions for a third-degree shoplifting conviction can be severe and life-altering:

  • Prison Time: The standard sentencing range is 3 to 5 years in state prison. However, the actual sentence can vary based on the judge's discretion and the specific circumstances of your case.
  • Fines: You may be fined up to $15,000. The exact amount often depends on the value of the merchandise and any previous criminal history.
  • Community Service: New Jersey mandates a minimum of 10 days of community service for first-time shoplifting offenders, potentially increasing with the severity and specifics of the case.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A third-degree felony conviction will appear on your criminal record, which can affect your ability to find employment, secure housing, or obtain professional licenses in the future.

Upon being charged, it's vital to understand the steps of the legal process:

  • Arraignment: This is your first court appearance where the charges against you will be formally read, and you'll have the opportunity to enter a plea.
  • Discovery: Your attorney will receive evidence from the prosecutor’s office, including surveillance footage, witness statements, and police reports.
  • Pre-trial Motions: Your defense team can file motions to dismiss certain charges or suppress evidence if it was obtained unlawfully.
  • Plea Bargaining: Depending on the strength of the evidence, your attorney may negotiate a plea deal to reduce the charges or penalties.
  • Trial: If no plea agreement is reached, your case may go to trial, where your defense team will present evidence and arguments in your favor.

Defense Strategies for Third-Degree Shoplifting

Given the severe implications of a third-degree shoplifting charge, having a robust defense strategy is crucial. Here are some common defenses used in shoplifting cases:

  • Challenging the Value of Stolen Items: Arguing that the value does not reach the threshold of a third-degree charge can reduce the severity of penalties.
  • Questioning the Intent to Steal: Proving that the act was not intentional or was due to a misunderstanding or mistake can be a strong defense.
  • Asserting Your Rights: If there were any violations of your constitutional rights during the arrest or evidence gathering, your attorney could move to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
  • Demonstrating Good Character: For first-time offenders, demonstrating a lack of prior criminal history and showing good character can influence the leniency of the court.

How Attorneys Hartman, Chartered Can Help

At Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, we specialize in criminal defense with a focus on shoplifting charges. We understand the nuances of New Jersey's criminal justice system and are adept at navigating its complexities to advocate effectively for our clients. Our approach includes:

  • Personalized Attention: We provide one-on-one consultations to understand every aspect of your case and tailor our strategy accordingly.
  • Aggressive Representation: Our team is committed to defending your rights in court and at negotiation tables.
  • Experienced Counsel: With decades of combined experience, our attorneys have a deep understanding of criminal law and a track record of successful outcomes.

Contact Attorneys Hartman, Chartered Today to Schedule a Free Consultation To Discuss Your Shoplifting Offense

Facing a third-degree shoplifting charge as a first-time offender in New Jersey is a serious situation that requires knowledgeable and experienced legal representation. The potential penalties are significant, but with the right defense strategy, there is hope for a favorable outcome. If you find yourself in this position, reach out to Attorneys Hartman, Chartered for comprehensive legal support designed to protect your rights and secure your future. Our team is here to guide you through every step of the legal process, ensuring that you are not alone in this challenging time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin your defense.

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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
Map + Directions