How Do Prior Shoplifting Convictions Affect My Case in New Jersey?

Police officer holding handcuffs and supermarket trolley in concept of shoplifting

One might think that shoplifting is a minor offense with minimal consequences in New Jersey. Not only is this untrue, there are also mandatory sentencing requirements that become even more severe if you have one or more prior convictions for shoplifting. In fact, the court is required to enhance your sentencing penalties for shoplifting each time you receive another shoplifting charge. Depending upon the number of shoplifting charges in your criminal history, you could even be required to serve jail time. Here we provide information about how multiple shoplifting convictions impact potential punishments for those charged with shoplifting again in New Jersey. If you have been charged with your first offense, second, third, or more shoplifting crimes in Hudson County or elsewhere in NJ, it is smart to get legal counsel that applies to your specific situation. Our experienced lawyers consistently defend clients facing shoplifting charges with and without priors on a regular basis. We are here to discuss your case in a free consultation 24/7. Speak with a knowledgeable Hudson County shoplifting defense attorney today at (201) 793-8018.

What Is the Degree of a Shoplifting Offense in New Jersey?

Shoplifting can be an indictable offense (felony) or a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor). The degree of a shoplifting offense is determined by the value of the merchandise involved in the alleged crime. Overall, a first degree, second degree, third degree, or fourth degree shoplifting crime is considered a felony. People who have been charged with indictable crimes will go to court in the Superior Court in the County in which the alleged shoplifting took place. If the amount alleged to have been shoplifted is less than $200 total, the case will be heard in the municipal court in the town where the alleged offense occurred.

Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting in NJ?

A person faces jail time when charged with any shoplifting shoplifting offense in New Jersey. Specifically, a disorderly persons offense (value of items less than $200) carries up to 180 days in the county jail; a 4th degree crime (taking items valuing $200-$500) is punishable by 12-18 months in state prison; 3rd degree crimes-(taking items valuing $500-$75,000) may result in 3- 5 years in state prison; and 2nd degree crimes (taking items valuing more than $75,000) have the potential for 5-10 years in state prison. Jail time for shoplifting is not absolutely required unless you have been charged with a second degree felony. However, there are penalties that the court must order depending on the number of shoplifting convictions in your criminal history.

What Happens With First Offense Shoplifting?

If you have been charged and convicted of shoplifting for the first time, you will be ordered to complete 1o days of community service in addition to any other sentence imposed. The court cannot do away with the community service component as the criminal statute directs the court to order it as part of any sentence. In most circumstances, anyone convicted or pleading to shoplifting will be placed on probation and your probation officer will monitor your service hours. As set forth above, although jail is not required for a first offense, you can be ordered to serve jail time as a condition of probation and do community service.

The amount of the item taken does not absolve a person of jail or community service. For example, even if you took something as simple as a phone charger, the court must sentence you to do 10 days of community service and can sentence you to as much as 180 days in jail and probation. The good news is, if you have never been convicted of any offense, you may be eligible for a program called Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) when charged with a felony shoplifting offense. A similar program called conditional dismissal is available for first-time shoplifting offenders in municipal court. By successfully completing either program, you can have your shoplifting charges dismissed.

What Is the Penalty for Second Offense Shoplifting?

If you have one shoplifting on your record, and receive a second charge of shoplifting, the court must sentence you to do 15 days of community service. A second offense also includes any similar shoplifting offense in other states. If you have a prior retail theft charge in New York or Pennsylvania and the law is similar in New Jersey, the current offense will be counted as a second offense subjecting you to community service, probation, fines, and possible jail. While jail is not required in a second offense, it is required for a third offense of shoplifting.

What Are the Penalties for a 3rd Shoplifting Charge?

For a third offense of shoplifting, the court has no choice but to order certain penalties. Most damaging to you is that the court must order you to spend 90 days in the county jail. The judge cannot avoid sentencing a person to 90 days if that person pleads to a third offense of shoplifting. Additionally, to add insult to injury, you would be ordered to perform a minimum of 25 hours of community service. In the example above, that inexpensive phone charger can cost you your liberty and possibly your livelihood because you will be required to sit in jail for 90 days. When you finally get out of jail, you must report to probation, perform community service, and pay fines and penalties.

Multiple Shoplifting Offenses in Hudson County NJ, Who Can Help?

Quite clearly, there are various severe penalties for shoplifting that could disrupt your entire life. If you have been charged with shoplifting, it is important to consider all of your options before simply pleading guilty and accepting the sentence. Our attorneys can identify the potential pitfalls in the case against you and work to get the best result with the least harsh penalties, or no penalties at all. Contact our local shoplifting lawyers in Hudson County, NJ to discuss your shoplifting case and find out how we can assist you. You can reach us by starting a chat or calling us at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.