Articles Posted in Shoplifting

A classic example of how a Shoplifting can escalate into a much more serious charge of Robbery was seen a few weeks ago in Monmouth County.  The defendant in this case accidentally struck a store employee as he attempted to exit the parking lot of the store he had shoplifted.  While the employee was not injured, the defendant used force to escape in the form of a motor vehicle.  This resulted in a Robbery charge.

A shoplifting becomes a Robbery under N.J.S.A. 2C:15 -1 where it results in “bodily injury” or involves “use of force” in the commission of the theft or during flight therefrom.  At a minimum, Robbery is a Second Degree crime carrying 5-10 years of jail time.  The No Early Release Act also applies to a Robbery and this law mandates that a defendant serve 85% of his jail term before he is eligible for parole.  

Whenever one of our NJ Shoplifting Lawyers begins to hear a story from a prospective client regarding a post-shoplifting escape, they hold their breath. The reason for this is the fact that, depending on what occurred, the case could quickly turn from a situation where someone is exposed to little to no jail time, to a case involving significant jail exposure and mandatory parole ineligibility.  The scenario obviously terms extreme when this occurs and so too the need for an intensified defense effort.  While these types of charges have to be taken very seriously, good outcomes are common for our firm in cases like this one.

The Star Ledger reported today that an Edison detective was arrested for shoplifting. The allegation was that he stole $42 in merchandise from a supermarket.  His stated position is that the charge was fabricated and that the items were properly paid for.  The case is still pending.

The report really does not come as a surprise given the experience of our NJ shoplifting defense practice. In fact, the profile of our typical shoplifting client is a middle to upper class woman in her forties.  What we are, for example, referring to are investment bankers, corporate executives and spouses of prominent physicians with plenty of money. Shoplifting is not about survival for most of our clients but rather something else.  Perhaps, the police officer in the report had similar motivation, assuming the allegations have merit.

Thankfully, it is a rare occurrence that one of our clients is actually convicted of shoplifting.  We are almost always able to have shoplifting charges downgraded and/or dismissed. One would expect a similar outcome for the police officer in the report.

I have previously authored articles regarding how a disorderly persons offense of shoplifting can be transformed into a Second Degree Robbery.  I just read an article in the Asbury Park Press where a shoplifting charge in Monmouth County was transformed into a Robbery under the circumstances which I previously contemplated.

The shoplifter was attempting to conceal steaks and a sponge, but was apprehended by store employees. The suspect did not, however, submit and attempted to escape.  A store employee was injured during the course of attempting to restrain and/or apprehend the suspect. The suspect has been charged with not only shoplifting but robbery.  His case is scheduled to be heard in Monmouth County Superior Court.

To reiterate, the use of physical force to effectuate a theft or to escape, is robbery.  Robbery is a second degree offense under these circumstances and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail. A parole ineligibility requirement also applies wherein an individual must serve 85% of any sentence before they are eligible for parole. While a robbery is a very serious offense, our NJ Shoplifting Defense Attorneys are often successful in mitigating the jail exposure in cases such as these.

The number of individuals arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey every year is staggering. It is also important to keep in mind that shoplifting is not limited to those of modest means but also involves individuals who are members of the middle and upper class of our society. We know this because we are retained by an extraordinary number of individuals every year who have been charged with shoplifting.

Given the demand for defense representation in this area of law, we were surprised to learn that there was no comprehensive source for individuals to refer to for information regarding NJ Shoplifting Offenses.  We therefore decided to develop such a source. Our New Jersey Shoplifting Attorneys have put their almost forty years of collective experience to work in compiling this content. We believe that www.njshopliftinglawyer.com shall quickly become the most informative publication for nj shoplifting issues. We are excited to have this opportunity and encourage individuals to consult our office directly at 1-877-450-8301 if they are in need of assistance.

Our firm has occasion to represent many individuals charged with shoplifting every year and, not surprisingly, this results in numerous cases involving the Mall at Short Hills. The question that prospective shoplifter clients almost uniformly ask is “what is going to happen to me”. This inquiry is not easy to respond to with respect to Shoplifting Charges in Millburn Municipal Court. The reason for this statement is the fact that the Short Hills Mall and its prosecutor take the sanctity of the community especially serious as it relates to shoplifting. The amendment of shoplifting charges to a municipal ordinance, something that allows individuals to avoid a criminal conviction and record, is not the norm in Millburn Municipal Court. It takes much more in terms of lawyer effort and skill to accomplish this objective. Thankfully, the attorneys at our law firm possess significant knowledge in this area and this paid off for our client yesterday.

I represented a 57 year old woman in Millburn Municipal Court yesterday for attempting to steal a Burberry raincoat from a well known establishment in Short Hills.  We initially attempted to get the client approved for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) but the Superior Court remanded the offense to Millburn notwithstanding the dollar amount involved.  We thereafter encountered resistence in amending the complaint to a local ordinance violation. Our office was persistent and, with the assistance and cooperation of our client, we were able to have the charge amended. The client avoided a criminal record which was extremely important as she not a citizen of the United States – a shoplifting conviction could have been devastating. I believe that the same approach can be utilized by others in the future in hopes of overcoming the general rule against amendment of shoplifting charges in Short Hills and Millburn.

New Jersey court statistics show that shoplifting arrests are up throughout the state. Many attribute this to the downturn in the economy. Irrespective, it is clear that our criminal defense law firm has seen a spike in retail theft charges. A significant portion of those arrested involves suspects who are not a citizen, for example, a green card holder or even visa holder (e.g. H1 or H4). A shoplifting conviction can be particularly troublesome for such a person.

When someone is admitted to the country on a temporary basis, it is typically achieved through an immigration visa. When the admission stems from sponsorship by an employer, it is termed a H1 visa. The dependents of someone holding a H1 visa are also admitted into the country under a H4 visa. Both H1 & H4 visas are temporary and must periodically be renewed or extended. A shoplifting conviction can, however, significantly complicate this effort.

There are various basis for Removal, also referred to as Deportation, or non-renewal of a visa by immigration authorities. A single conviction for shoplifting traditionally provided no issue as to Deportation, Removal or Non-Renewal but we are finding that this is not necessarily the situation for H1 & H4 visa holders these days. We recently had an individual held up by Homeland Security, Customs and/or INS, upon returning to New Jersey from oversees. The client had apparently pled guilty to shoplifting years prior and was now consulting us because their immigration status was in jeopardy because of the conviction. We were consulted for purposes of filing an application for Post-Conviction relief. The petition to vacate the shoplifting conviction is pending. The immigration status of our H4 client and her husband, a sponsored employee on a H1 visa, is at serious risk. It is unfortunate that cultural differences and a lack of knowledge concerning the NJ legal system often motivate immigrants to simply plead guilty and/or hire the cheapest lawyer they can find. Such a decision can have potentially disastrous consequences.  I am hoping we can overcome the poor decision of our client in this case and avoid Deportation.

The New Jersey Shoplifting Law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. The grade of criminal offense that a shoplifting charge will trigger is contingent upon the value of the merchandise allegedly stolen. In this regard, the statute provides as follows:

  1. It is a Disorderly Persons Offense where the value of the merchandise is $200 or less;
  2. It is a Fourth Degree Crime where the value of the merchandise is between $200 and $500;
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