With pressure to buy gifts and create a perfect celebration, many people turn to shoplifting during the holidays. Black Friday can be especially chaotic with throngs of shoppers crowding into stores, allowing shoplifters ample opportunity. Shoplifting may not be planned; it can happen at the spur of a minute. Yet, no matter how much thought a shoplifter puts into their crime, the consequences can be serious.

Why Does Shoplifting Increase During the Holidays?

The holidays are difficult for some, especially those experiencing financial difficulties or tragic losses. Being unable to give to others, decorate, or participate in festivities can feel embarrassing and depressing. Expectations can run high this time of year, and those unable to meet them can feel pressured and make mistakes that will haunt them. Depending on the items stolen, individuals that shoplift can face fines and imprisonment. Other consequences may include being hit with a civil lawsuit.

What Counts as Shoplifting in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, shoplifting charges are not just for simple petty theft. It includes changing price tags to purchase something at a lower amount or hiding items inside something else being bought; these are also referred to as theft by trick. Stealing shopping carts is also categorized as shoplifting. Cashiers can also be charged if they purposely under-ring or give a customer free goods without consent.

Shoplifting Penalties and Fines

Every state has its own rules when it comes to shoplifting. In New Jersey, the value of the merchandise stolen or altered will determine the penalties and fines. 

  • For stolen goods with a full retail value of $75,000 and up, it is a second-degree offense. This is punishable with up to $150,000 in fines and five to 10 years in prison.
  • If the merchandise’s retail value is more than $500 but under $75,000, it is a third-degree offense. This can incur fines up to $15,000 and three to five years imprisonment.
  • For items between $200 and $500, it is a fourth-degree offense. Offenders may be fined up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison.
  • If the value is less than $200, it will be classified as a disorderly persons offense.

Anyone convicted of one of these may be mandated to perform 10 to 90 days of community service. It is important to keep in mind that these penalties can increase if it is the person’s second, third, or subsequent offense. Convictions can also make it difficult for offenders to find employment or education.

Defense Strategies

It is possible to fight shoplifting charges, and some cases can be resolved with little to no jail time. Some individuals may claim that they had not intended to shoplift the goods; an individual could say they tried on a necklace and forgot to remove it before leaving the store, or that an item had fallen from a shelf into a shopping bag.

Sometimes, a shopper may be accused of stealing an item that already belonged to them that they brought into the store. In other situations, cashiers forget to remove sensors from items when they are being purchased. During the busy holiday season, these instances can happen more frequently to shoppers.

Haddonfield Criminal Lawyers at Aita Law, LLC Help Individuals Accused of Shoplifting

If you are faced with shoplifting charges, contact a knowledgeable Haddonfield criminal lawyer at Aita Law, LLC. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 856-287-7800. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill and Camden County.