What do you think of when you think of shoplifting? If you are like most people, you think of teenagers trying to abscond with a video game, makeup or some other teenager-related item in order to "fit in" with the crowd. While that certainly happens, college students and adults may also find themselves accused of shoplifting, and here in New Jersey, that could be bad news.
Do you envision any penalties for shoplifting involving a slap on the wrist and repaying the store owner for the item or items stolen? Think again. There are real criminal penalties attached to this charge, and a conviction could affect your future in ways you may not yet see.
What constitutes shoplifting?
Under the law, shoplifting involves the following actions:
- Hiding merchandise in something you are carrying or on your body
- Altering, removing or transferring price tags on merchandise
- Removing merchandise from the store without paying for it or after paying less than full price
Yes, you read that right. If you somehow alter the price of an item so that you don't pay the full price of it, that constitutes shoplifting as well. Obviously, if the store placed the item on sale, shoplifting is not an issue as long as you pay the sale price.
The value of the merchandise matters
The values of the item or items officials accuse you of stealing matters when it comes to the potential penalties for shoplifting. The more the merchandise is worth, the higher the potential penalties become. For instance, you may face incarceration of anywhere between 18 months and 10 years, along with $10,000 and up to $150,000 in fines if convicted of shoplifting items ranging in value from no less than $200 to more than $75,000.
If this is your first arrest for shoplifting, and the value of the merchandise comes in at less than $200, the potential jail time drops to no more than 10 days. As for the financial aspect, it could end up being quite costly due to another part of New Jersey's shoplifting laws.
There's something unique about New Jersey's shoplifting law
The penalties associated with shoplifting include potential fines and jail time in most states, but the state of New Jersey takes things a step further. If prosecutors convict you of shoplifting, you may also face paying for the money the storeowner lost due to the shoplifting, including any court costs.
As you can see, shoplifting charges are not a laughing matter here in New Jersey. You may want to explore your legal options and obtain an understanding of your rights before pleading guilty because you think the charge and a conviction will simply go away.