Can I Get My Shoplifting Offense Downgraded in New Jersey?

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Despite how many people may minimize the charge, shoplifting offenses can have very heavy consequences. Being convicted of shoplifting in New Jersey can result in you facing fines, probation, community service, as well as a criminal record. Given this, you may be asking yourself if it is possible to get a shoplifting charge dismissed or downgraded in New Jersey. Please keep reading this blog post to learn how New Jersey defines shoplifting in detail, the penalties you may face for such a charge, and what options are available if you are charged with shoplifting. A Mercer County theft lawyer is here to defend your rights if you find yourself in this situation, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact soon.

Penalties for Shoplifting in New Jersey

The shoplifting statute in New Jersey is N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. Shoplifting can warrant a wide range of penalties, from a disorderly persons offense to a second-degree crime. Which category of shoplifting is applied to you will depend on how high the value of the property involved is.

For property valued less than $200, shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense. As we discussed, shoplifting is a heavier charge than most acknowledge, and even in the case of a disorderly persons offense, you may still encounter 6 months in jail.

When the value of the taken property is between $200 and $500, the charge is considered a fourth-degree offense and threatens up to 18 months in jail. The next step up involves property valued between $500 and $75,000. This is third-degree shoplifting and it carries the possibility of three to five years in prison. Second-degree shoplifting is for stolen property valued above $75,000, which may be punished with five to 10 years in prison.

Additionally, you don’t have to actually commit shoplifting to be charged with it. If you have in your possession or use what are called “antishoplifting countermeasures.” An example of such a device would be something that demagnetizes magnetic price tags meant to prevent shoplifting. In this scenario, your charge will be a disorderly persons offense, to be processed in local municipal court.

What Options Do I Have if I Am Charged with Shoplifting?

Among your options when charged with shoplifting are:

  • Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI),
  • Dismissal of your charge,
  • Downgrading of your charge.

Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) is a diversionary program in New Jersey, as a part of the state’s rehabilitative efforts. PTI is like parole, but has one major and positive difference: once you complete the program, your charge is dismissed as is any remark about it on your criminal record.

Another powerful option is having your shoplifting charge dismissed. Your lawyer may submit a motion to dismiss your case, arguing that your shoplifting charge is a de minimis offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11. A de minimis charge indicates that your offense was too small, doesn’t rise to the level needed for the shoplifting charge, and doesn’t merit the cost of a full trial. A dismissal is also possible when store employees and security guards decide not to appear at your hearing.

Lastly, first-time offenders have the opportunity to get their charge downgraded to a violation of a municipal ordinance. Should this be successful, you won’t be facing jail, your fine won’t be as high, and you typically won’t have a criminal record.

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