Although the penalties for shoplifting vary from state to state, New Jersey's statutes add an interesting wrinkle. Not only do convicted shoplifters face the possibility of community service, fines and jail time, New Jersey store owners have the right to recover all monetary losses due to shoplifting -- including court costs. That's right: convicted shoplifters in New Jersey will not only pay for the crime, they'll even pay for their conviction.
What constitutes shoplifting?
In New Jersey, shoplifting can be any action taken with the intent of not paying for - or paying less than the full price of - an item. Taking merchandise outside of the store; hiding it on your body or in something you're carrying; removing, altering, or transferring price tags all can be classified as shoplifting.
How does value affect the penalty?
The value of the item or items stolen is considered in the penalty for the crime, with the penalties for shoplifting based on full retail value. For instance, shoplifting items with a value of over $75,000 is considered a 2nd degree offense, and is punishable by a fine of up to $150,000 and five to 10 years in prison. Taking items with a value greater than $500 but less than $75,000 is considered a 3rd degree offense. This carries is a punishment of imprisonment of 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000. Shoplifting items valued at more than $200 but less than $500 is considered a 4th degree offense, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
On the other hand, first-time offenders who are convicted of taking items valued at less than $200 face no more than 10 days in jail. While this may not sound like a major punishment, the store's right to recover restitution and court costs can make even a minor infraction financially devastating.
How do stores get paid back?
Stores in New Jersey have the right to seek fair recompensation for their troubles. This recompensation comes in the form of a "fine," which goes to the store. Those convicted can expect to shell out at least the court costs, the legal fees of the store, as well as the "shoplifting surcharge," which usually amounts to $150.
Remember, when you are in New Jersey and you get caught for shoplifting, the store will get at least $150 from you, not for what you took, but because you took it; and this assumes that they got the merchandise back that you were caught shoplifting with! Even if you are from out of State, you will have to perform the community service and pay the store their "fee" before going home.
As you can see, shoplifting in New Jersey is not taken lightly, especially as the value of the stolen item increases. If you are facing shoplifting charges, there are many criminal defense attorneys throughout New Jersey who may be able to help.
Contact a qualified attorney.