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Retail Theft Charges: What Do I Do?

Shoplifting is a serious offense. It is not a prank or a cheap thrill, and it could get you in deep trouble. In many cases, even an honest mistake can spell trouble when an unmoved shopkeeper decides to press charges.

What Constitutes Retail Theft?

Retail theft, commonly referred to as shoplifting, is defined as having two major components: the concealment or taking of merchandise meant for sale and the intent to deprive the merchant of those items without paying for them. It is important to note that the concealment of the items is enough to serve as evidence of intent to steal. Therefore, it is possible to be charged with shoplifting without having left the premises. Shoplifting statutes also address the act of altering price tags or otherwise manipulating the merchandise to pay less than the full purchase price.

Shoplifting Charges

The severity of the charges is usually in line with the value of the merchandise in question. Items such as firearms or explosives increase the seriousness of the charges and the resulting penalties. In most jurisdictions, it is the prosecutors who decide which charges to pursue. Shoplifting can be charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony, with penalties that include:

  • Infractions receive a fine.
  • Misdemeanor charges may result in a fine, probation, and/or jail time, typically less than one year.
  • Felonies are subject to possible probation, higher fines, and longer jail sentences.

Additionally, New Jersey enacted a law that allows shopkeepers who successfully bring charges against a shoplifter to recover court costs, which would be collected as part of the conviction penalty.

First Time Offenders

For those who have no history of theft or other types of criminal behavior, it is easier to make the case that the charges deserve a lesser penalty. In many jurisdictions, the penalty for a first offense can be reduced to community service or mandatory anti-theft seminars.

Guilty Pleas

It is not in your best interest to plead guilty to shoplifting, especially if it is your first offense. Such criminal convictions stay with you for years, or even life, impacting your credit score and job opportunities, among other things. Keep in mind that the comparatively minor penalty of a fine or probation may satisfy the immediate charges, but a guilty plea does not necessarily allow you to move on from the episode unscathed. Do not discount how detrimental a guilty plea can be for your future.

South Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Agre & St. John Defend Against Shoplifting Charges

If you were charged with shoplifting, you may be going through a range of emotions, including stress brought on by the uncertainty about what you are facing. Let the South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Agre & St. John help you determine the facts and obtain the justice you deserve. Contact us online or call us at 856-428-7797 to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.

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