New Jersey Shoplifting Charges

“If you have just been charged with Shoplifting in New Jersey, there are ways that we can fight to have your case dismissed. Our New Jersey Shoplifting Lawyers regularly defend clients against shoplifting charges, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, in courts across NJ.”

Arrested Shoplifting Need Lawyer NJ


When you are arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey, what begins as an ordinary day can quickly spiral into a nightmare. Not only is shoplifting a criminal theft offense in New Jersey, it is also what is known as a “crime of moral turpitude,” which can adversely impact your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen. In other words, there consequences of a shoplifting conviction are severe. If you have been charged with shoplifting in New Jersey, it is imperative to find an experienced shoplifting defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact The Tormey Law Firm anytime at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation about your case and read on for more information about NJ shoplifting charges.

Is Shoplifting a Felony or a Misdeameanor in New Jersey?

In terms of grading, the degree of shoplifting charges are highly variable, ranging from a disorderly persons offense to a second degree felony. The primary determinant of the degree of a shoplifting offense is the monetary value of the allegedly stolen merchandise. For instance, if the items are worth less than $200, then this is considered a “petty theft,” a disorderly persons offense under New Jersey law, similar to a misdemeanor. However, even the most minor NJ shoplifting charge can result in a fine of up to $1,000, probation, community service, up to 6 months in the county jail, and a conviction on your criminal record. Sometimes, people are surprised to find out that shoplifting doesn’t necessarily involve removing merchandise from a store. In fact, you can face NJ shoplifting charges for removing a tag or label, underringing items for yourself or someone else, or moving merchandise to another container if the State believes you intended to remove it from the premises without paying for it.

What Defenses are Available in a Shoplifting Case?

Fortunately, you have the right to mount a compelling defense against shoplifting charges. What you need is a knowledgeable and experienced New Jersey shoplifting defense attorney who can work to have your charges downgraded or dismissed altogether. Travis J. Tormey is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has handled shoplifting cases for years in counties throughout New Jersey. He and his team at The Tormey Law Firm regularly appear in Superior and Municipal Courts in Paramus, Hackensack, Millburn, Newark, Rockaway, Morristown, and across the state. In fact, Mr. Tormey was featured in the Daily Record in Morris County regarding several shoplifting cases he handled because of the immigration consequences and penalties involved. For more information about New Jersey shoplifting charges, this page is an excellent resource, so keep reading. And for a free consultation about the specific circumstances of your shoplifting case in New Jersey, contact our offices at (201)-556-1570 today.

New Jersey Shoplifting Law: N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11

As mentioned above, there are a variety of offenses that may constitute shoplifting under New Jersey law. There are actually 6 separate acts that can expose you to charges and prosecution for shoplifting, as explained below. Shoplifting offenses in New Jersey are governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11 which provides in pertinent part, Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts:

Taking Merchandise

(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. This is often referred to as the “traditional” form of shoplifting, because it is what we typically associate with shoplifting offenses.

Concealing Merchandise

(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. Notice that you can be charged with shoplifting if you concealed an item with the intent of stealing it. Intent is extremely important in this form of shoplifting case, as the presumption associated with this charge is that if you concealed an item, you did so with the intention of stealing it. A skilled NJ shoplifting defense attorney can work to prove that you did not.

Altering Labels

(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.

Transferring Items to Another Container

(4) For any person purposely to transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail merchandise establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the retail value thereof. This type of shoplifting often occurs when a person takes an item out of one container and puts it in another that has a lower price displayed on it.

Underringing Merchandise

(5) For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof. This is a unique form of shoplifting because it applies to store employees. Specifically, an employee at a retail establishment can be charged with shoplifting if he or she rings an item or items at a value lower than that which is being offered by the retailer. You can be charged for underringing merchandise for yourself or someone else.

Removing a Shopping Cart

(6) For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.

*NOTE: In New Jersey, it is also a disorderly persons offense to possess or use any anti-shoplifting device within a store. This goes back to the concept of “intent.” If you possessed an anti-shoplifting device in a store, you are presumed to have the intent of using it to commit a theft crime.

What are the Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey?

When it comes to the degree of shoplifting charges in New Jersey, shoplifting can be an indictable criminal offense or a disorderly persons offense depending on the amount of the alleged theft. So, the first question to ask in a shoplifting case is: what is the estimated value of the allegedly stolen merchandise?

Disorderly Persons Shoplifting Offense

If the amount of the alleged theft is $200.00 or less, the case will be handled in the Municipal Court in the municipality in which the alleged offense occurred. In other words, if you are charged with shoplifting at Paramus Park Mall in Paramus and the charge is a disorderly persons offense, you will be required to appear in Paramus Municipal Court. Many shoplifting cases involve disorderly persons offenses, which are punishable by a sentence to serve up to 6 months in the county jail, community service, restitution payments to the store owner, and a conviction on your criminal record.

Fourth Degree Shoplifting

As the value of the allegedly stolen item or items increases, the charges are enhanced to the felony-level. These cases are handled in the Superior Court in the county where the alleged offense occurred and prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office. If the amount involved in the alleged shoplifting offense is between $200 and $500, this is a fourth degree indictable crime in New Jersey which is punishable by up to eighteen (18) months in NJ state prison.

Third Degree Shoplifting

If the amount of the alleged theft is between $500 and $75,000, this is a third degree shoplifting offense in New Jersey and punishable by up to five (5) years in state prison. For example, if you are charged with a third degree shoplifting offense at Short Hills Mall in Millburn, your case will be handled in the Essex County Superior Court.

Second Degree Shoplifting

Finally, if the amount of the theft is greater than $75,000, this is a second degree shoplifting offense in New Jersey punishable by up to ten (10) years in state prison. Sometimes, the State will elect to aggregate the amounts associated with several shoplifting offenses into one higher value so they can charge a person accused of multiple shoplifting crimes with one more serious shoplifting charge.

Fines and Community Service in NJ Shoplifting Cases

Shoplifting offenses in New Jersey can also carry heavy fines. Specifically, a disorderly persons shoplifting offense may result in a fine of up to $1,000; a fourth degree shoplifting crime is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000; third degree shoplifting exposes you to a $15,000 fine; and second degree shoplifting may be punished by a fine of up t0 $150,000. Lastly, a shoplifting conviction requires community service under New Jersey law. For a first shoplifting offense, you must perform at least 10 days; for a second offense, a minimum of 15 days is required; and for a third or subsequent offense, the person has to perform community service for up to 25 days. If you are convicted of your third shoplifting offense, it is also mandatory that you serve a minimum of 90 days in jail.

Shoplifting is a Crime of Moral Turpitude

All shoplifting offenses, regardless of the degree of the crime, are classified as “crimes of moral turpitude” in New Jersey. Although there has been much debate about what a crime of moral turpitude actually means, Federal immigration law states that a crime of moral turpitude refers to “conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” This harsh definition may be shocking, but it applies just to same to shoplifting crimes in New Jersey. So, if you are not a permanent U.S. citizen, a shoplifting conviction can make you eligible for deportation, impact your green card or Visa application, and spell other serious immigration consequences.

The Conditional Dismissal Program

If you are a first time offender and charged with a disorderly persons level shoplifting, you may be eligible to apply for a diversionary program in Municipal Court known as the Conditional Dismissal program. To be eligible, you must have no prior criminal history and you have never used a first time offender program in New Jersey before (such as Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), conditional discharge, or conditional dismissal). If you are eligible, you must plead guilty to the charge to be placed into the program. They will place you on probation for one (1) year. If you remain arrest free and pay your program fees during that one year period, the case will be dismissed at the end of your probationary program. You will have no criminal record. Then, you can expunge the arrest off of your record after 6 months.

NOTE: If you are not a US citizen, you should not plead guilty to shoplifting and enter into the conditional dismissal program. Even though the case gets dismissed at the end of the 1 year probationary period, the factual basis for the guilty plea you gave to shoplifting in court can be used against you for your immigration proceedings since it is a “crime of moral terpitude”. It’s imperative you discuss your options with an experienced shoplifting lawyer to understand all of your options.

Frequently Asked Questions About NJ Shoplifting Charges

FAQ: Am I going to jail on a shoplifting charge? The typical answer is no. It is unusual to be sentenced to jail time on a shoplifting offense but it depends on your prior criminal history and the degree of your shoplifting charges. However, if you have multiple prior shoplifting convictions, then jail time is a real threat. In fact, on a third or subsequent shoplifting offense in New Jersey, a defendant must serve a minimum of ninety (90) days in the county jail.

FAQ: This is my first offense ever. Am I eligible for any first time offender programs? Most likely yes. If you are facing a felony shoplifting charge, you can apply for the Pre-Trial Intervention program. For a disorderly persons shoplifting offense, you should be eligible for the conditional dismissal program in Municipal Court.

Contact our NJ Shoplifting Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you or someone you love is facing shoplifting charges in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11 in New Jersey, the repercussions can be frightening, but you have rights. At The Tormey Law Firm our New Jersey shoplifting defense lawyers utilize highly effective defense strategies to defeat shoplifting charges in Short Hills, Parsippany, Woodbridge, Teaneck, and throughout New Jersey. Contact us today at (201)-556-1570 to speak with us about your unique case and find the answers you need to protect yourself. We provide 24/7 consultations free of charge.


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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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