Shoplifting Attorney in Hudson County


Shoplifting is one of the most common charges that we handle on a regular basis throughout New Jersey. Defendants range from teenagers, young mothers, repeat offenders, to professionals who make “six-figures” a year. New Jersey has made the shoplifting laws very seriously and strict as a way to combat the prevalence of the crime. In fact, shoplifting is punishable by mandatory incarceration under certain circumstances. Moreover, the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) has issued guidelines to judges and prosecutors to not allow plea bargaining for defendants charged with shoplifting. This can obviously make defending a shoplifting case very hard and complicated, especially for the inexperienced. At the William Proetta Criminal Law, we have successfully represented clients against thousands of criminal and municipal court charges including numerous shoplifting crimes and related charges including possession of burglary tools. We frequently represent clients charged with shoplifting in Jersey City, Kearny, Secaucus, Bayonne, North Bergen, Millburn and Clifton. If you would like to speak with an experienced shoplifting criminal attorney then contact our Jersey City office at (201) 793-8018.


The New Jersey statute for shoplifting is listed below, in pertinent part, for your reading convenience.

§ 2C:20-11. Shoplifting b. Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts: (1) For any person purposely to take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof. (2) For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof. (3) For any person purposely to alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment and to attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.


Anyone who is proven to have shoplifted in New Jersey can face jail time. Each level of shoplifting crime has a possible prison term attached to it depending on the degree of the charge. The degree of the charges are delineated by the value of the amount taken as noted below:

Second Degree ShopliftingOver $75,000 worth of merchandise5  – 10 years in state prison; incarceration presumed
Third Degree Shoplifting$500 – $75,000 worth of merchandise3 – 5 years in state prison
Fourth Degree Shoplifting$200 – $500 worth of merchandiseUp to 18 months in state prison
Disorderly Persons Offense ShopliftingUnder $200 of worth merchandiseUp to 6 months in county jail

It is also important to understand that multiple shoplifting charges are not always consolidated by the prosecutor. This means that if you are accused of committing two, three, four, or more thefts at different times, you may face separate charges, with any sentences imposed possibly stacked on top of each other so that they run consecutively, one after the other. However, if you are accused of committing multiple thefts during what is considered “a continuing course of conduct,” the prosecutor might decide to aggregate the theft offenses and combine the values of all the property taken. This could lead to enhanced charges and increased penalties, especially if the total value of the property taken during all of the thefts exceeds $500.

Shoplifting offenses also carry mandatory community service requirements. The amount of community service ordered in a specific case depends on the number of convictions that a person has previously had for shoplifting. If it is your first offense, community service for shoplifting must be a minimum of 10 days. If it is your second shoplifting offense, you will be ordered to do at least 15 days. A maximum of 25 days of community service is required for third, fourth, and subsequent shoplifting convictions. In addition to any jail time and community service, the court will require you to pay certain fines. Specifically, you must pay a $75 Safe Neighborhood fee, $50 Victims of Crime Compensation Assessment, and a $30 Law Enforcement Training and Equipment Fund penalty. You can also be forced to pay restitution for the unrecovered items, the cost of DNA testing, and a $150 civil penalty (not imposed by the criminal court) as well as court costs and fees.


Shoplifting is considered a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude “CIMT,” which means a conviction can have serious adverse affects on your immigration status if you are not a U.S. Citizen. For example, these penalties can include deportation, denial for green card or visa renewal, or not being able to re-enter the country if you leave. These repercussions can apply to any immigrant including green card holders, workers and family on visa, and illegal residents.


Although most shoplifting charges are filed against adults, sometimes a shoplifting charge in New Jersey involves a minor. For juveniles under the age of 18, a charge for a delinquent act such as shoplifting is likely to be processed through the state’s juvenile justice system: police may take the minor into custody, and then either release the minor to a responsible parent or guardian or send the minor to a secure detention facility to await resolution in the Family Court, although rare. The consequences of a conviction in Family Court for juvenile shoplifting may include probation, community service, financial restitution, or an order to serve time in a juvenile detention facility.

The length of time that a minor defendant may be sentenced to serve in detention for a shoplifting offense is typically determined by the value of the store merchandise that was shoplifted, although detention is reserved for extreme cases typically. The possibility of juvenile detention for delinquency on a shoplifting charge is real and you should be aware of the following guidelines when it comes to amounts and potential sentences:

  • $75,000 or more: 3 years in detention
  • $500 – $75,000: 2 years in detention
  • $200 – $500: 1 year in detention
  • Less than $200: 6 months in detention

If your son or daughter has been charged with a juvenile shoplifting offense, it is imperative that you speak with a juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. Whether your child is accused of taking merchandise from the store, concealing an item while inside the store, or altering a price tag, a conviction on the charges could have repercussions that last the rest of their life.


The statute cited above clearly describes shoplifting as theft of merchandise from a retail store or the intent steal by concealing merchandise. However, we commonly handle cases where a shoplifting charge can quickly escalate to a second degree Robbery when a security guard attempts to apprehend a suspect and a physical struggle ensues. The added element of force turns the shoplifting into a robbery (theft + force). Every case has different facts and circumstances but, generally speaking, shoplifting case can very complicated and difficult to defend. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can work with the prosecution and challenge the state’s proofs, such as the actual value of merchandise, co-defendant implication, and actual intent. At William Proetta Criminal Law we represent clients against shoplifting charges through New Jersey including Hoboken, Newark, Union City, Bloomfield, and West New York. Our lawyers are typically able to negotiate a downgrade, dismissal, or your admittance into a diversion program such as Pre-Trial Intervention. If you or a family member has been charged with the crime of shoplifting then please contact our Jersey City office for a free consultation at (201) 793-8018 or by e-mail.