Fort Lee Shoplifting Attorney
Shoplifting Defense Lawyers in Fort Lee, New Jersey
Whether you are shopping along Main Street, or checking out new cell phones near Linwood Plaza, you know that Fort Lee is one of the busiest places in Bergen County, New Jersey. In fact, because of its prime location at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, it is a popular destination among travelers, shoppers and sometimes, shoplifters. But be aware, with a force of 95 officers, and a prime location of its precinct on 16th street, the Fort Lee Police Department is well-equipped to assist stores in the arrest and prosecution of those suspected of shoplifting. Fortunately, just as Fort Lee police officers are experienced in arresting shoplifters, our attorneys have extensive experience defending those facing shoplifting charges in Fort Lee Municipal Court and Bergen County Superior Court.
Here, we provide you with information about what constitutes shoplifting, the varying degrees of shoplifting, and what it means if you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor theft crime in Fort Lee NJ. For dedicated guidance and esteemed legal counsel from an experienced Fort Lee Shoplifting Attorney at our local defense firm, contact us at (201)-556-1570 or fill at our convenient online form to request a free consultation. A member of our team is available around the clock to discuss your Fort Lee shoplifting case.
What is Considered Shoplifting in Fort Lee NJ?
Most people think that they can only be charged with shoplifting if they are caught red-handed leaving the store with an item that was not paid for. This is not only untrue, but this type of shoplifting represents only a small number of cases in which people are charged with retail theft crimes. Legislators in New Jersey are familiar with the many fact patterns of shoplifting. For this reason, the State of New Jersey has made is a crime of shoplifting if the state can prove that you purposely:
- Took possession of, carried away, transferred, or caused to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise belonging to the store without paying the full value for the item(s). An example of such a shoplifting is placing a TV in the cart and leaving the store without paying for it. Or, you may be the person waiting in the car in the parking lot who is charged with shoplifting because it is alleged that you assisted the shoplifter in leaving the store. In either case, if it is proven that you and another conspired to take an item without full payment, you can be convicted of shoplifting.
- Concealed merchandise that was offered for sale without paying for the item. Concealing the item includes hiding it on your physical self or in any way that would preclude an observer from seeing the item(s). Cases involving concealing are not always clear cut. For example, sometimes people shop in a multi-purpose store such as Walmart or TJMaxx and place a shoe box in their cart. As they shop they throw various things in the cart and a small item, such as a lip gloss, may inadvertently be thrown in the shoe box and you do not catch it at check out. Unfortunately, Loss Prevention was watching and ultimately charges you with the crime because make-up is a commonly shoplifted item. In other cases, the concealment is planned and involves expensive items. Sound bars, electric toothbrushes, medications and items commonly sold at bodegas or mom and pop stores are often concealed in larger boxes such as storage bins, cheaper boxes, or under clothing.
- Altered transferred or removed any label, price tag or marking indicating the value with the intention of paying less than the advertised value for the item and depriving the store of the full retail value. This form of shoplifting is accomplished by simply switching tags on an item. For instance, if a Rhumba vacuum costs $300 and you peel off the sticker for a $100 vacuum and place it on the Rhumba and deprive the owner of $200, you can be convicted of shoplifting.
- Transferred any merchandise offered for sale from its original container into another container to deprive the owner of the item without payment. This is similar to shoplifting listed in number two above but can also be accomplished by removing the item from its original display. In today’s day and age, cell phones are expensive and a much sought after commodity. In some cases, shoplifters or shoplifting rings manage to clip the cell phones offered for sale from the cord or display. Removing the chord attached to the display is a form of shoplifting.
- Under charged or under-rang any item to deprive the owner of the full value of the item. This usually occurs with the assistance of a store clerk who, for example, may charge $20 for an item worth $200.
- Removed a shopping cart from the premises of a store. This is self-explanatory and is not a frequently charged offense.
How do Prosecutors Prove Fort Lee Shoplifting Charges?
Overall, to prove you guilty under any of the above examples, the state must prove that you had the intention of stealing the item. If the state can only establish that it was an accident or that you were not aware of the shoplifting, you cannot be convicted. In attempting to prove their case, the prosecutors will use both direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct proof may be something such as a video recording of you taking an item, placing it under your coat, and leaving the store. Circumstantial evidence is not the same as direct proof. It is the facts surrounding the events in question that lend itself to establish that you knew you were shoplifting. For instance, paying $20 for an item that most people know is worth $300 is circumstantial proof.
Regardless of the alleged facts, if the police allege that shoplifting occurred, you will either be charged with a felony (indictable) or misdemeanor (disorderly persons offense). Both types of cases can involve harsh sentences and consequences.
Degrees of Fort Lee Shoplifting Crimes
The crime of shoplifting will either be a misdemeanor (disorderly persons offense) or a felony (indictable) offense of the second, third, or fourth degree. The degree of the crime depends on the value of the item(s) taken. Specifically, a misdemeanor charge of shoplifting is also known as a disorderly persons offense and will be heard in Fort Lee Municipal Court. You will be charged with a disorderly persons offense if the total value of the items alleged to have been taken are less than $200. If convicted of this level of shoplifting offense, you can be sentenced to jail for a maximum of 180 days in jail, up to $1000 in fines, $125 in mandatory penalties, as well as court costs and probation.
If the total value of the items is more than $200, you will be charged with a felony (also known as an indictable crime) and be required to go to Bergen County Superior Court. Felony shoplifting offenses have penalties that include state prison, a permanent criminal record, and thousands of dollars in fines. For example, while uncommon, if you are accused of taking items valued at $75,000 or greater (2nd degree crime), you can go to prison for 5-10 years and face fines up to $150,000. As noted, a second degree crime is not often charged and people are more frequently charged with third degree crimes for shoplifting.
Third degree shoplifting charges can be prosecuted if the value of the items taken or attempted to be taken have a value between $500-$75,000. For a third degree offense, you may be sentenced to state prison for 3-5 years, probation, and face fines up to $15,000. If the value of your allegedly stolen items are worth between $200-500, you will be charged with a fourth degree crime, be subject to 12-18 months in state prison, probation, and $10,000 in fines.
What to do when Charged with Shoplifting in Fort Lee NJ
When you have been arrested in Fort Lee for shoplifting, hiring an attorney who understands the law and has practical experience in the specific courts where Fort Lee shoplifting cases are handled can make a massive difference in the outcome of your case. The Tormey Law Firm has been representing clients in Fort Lee for years. We know and understand the law on shoplifting in New Jersey, the way these cases are prosecuted, and how we can defend against the charges against you. Contact our firm today at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation with a skilled Fort Lee Shoplifting Lawyer near you.