New Jersey Shoplifting Defense Attorneys

     New Jersey Shoplifting offenses can result in Years in Prison, Fines, and a Criminal Record.   With over 40 Years Experience with NJ shoplifting cases as Judge, Prosecutor, and Criminal Defense Lawyer, we helped thousands of clients avoid the harsh penalties of a criminal conviction, having charges dropped outright, downgraded, or diverting them from the Criminal Justice system.   The experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys of Avery & Avery      

The following is a copy of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, the NJ statute which governs criminal penalties regarding shoplifting:

Shoplifting Full Title N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11

a. Definitions. The following definitions apply to this section:

(1) “Shopping cart” means those push carts of the type or types which are commonly provided by grocery stores, drug stores or other retail mercantile establishments for the use of the public in transporting commodities in stores and markets and, incidentally, from the stores to a place outside the store;

(2) “Store or other retail mercantile establishment” means a place where merchandise is displayed, held, stored or sold or offered to the public for sale;

(3) “Merchandise” means any goods, chattels, foodstuffs or wares of any type and description, regardless of the value thereof;

(4) “Merchant” means any owner or operator of any store or other retail mercantile establishment, or any agent, servant, employee, lessee, consignee, officer, director, franchisee or independent contractor of such owner or proprietor;

(5) “Person” means any individual or individuals, including an agent, servant or employee of a merchant where the facts of the situation so require;

(6) “Conceal” means to conceal merchandise so that, although there may be some notice of its presence, it is not visible through ordinary observation;

(7) “Full retail value” means the merchant's stated or advertised price of the merchandise;

(8) “Premises of a store or retail mercantile establishment” means and includes but is not limited to, the retail mercantile establishment; any common use areas in shopping centers and all parking areas set aside by a merchant or on behalf of a merchant for the parking of vehicles for the convenience of the patrons of such retail mercantile establishment;

(9) “Under-ring” means to cause the cash register or other sale recording device to reflect less than the full retail value of the merchandise;

(10) “Antishoplifting or inventory control device countermeasure” means any item or device which is designed, manufactured, modified, or altered to defeat any antishoplifting or inventory control device;

(11) “Organized retail theft enterprise” means any association of two or more persons who engage in the conduct of or are associated for the purpose of effectuating the transfer or sale of shoplifted merchandise.

b. Shoplifting. Shoplifting shall consist of any one or more of the following acts:

(1) For any person purposely to take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof.

(2) For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.

(3) For any person purposely to alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment and to attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.

(4) For any person purposely to transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail merchandise establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the retail value thereof.

(5) For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof.

(6) For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.

c. Gradation. (1) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the second degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more, or the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise and the full retail value of the merchandise is $1,000 or more.

(2) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the third degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds $500 but is less than $75,000, or the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise and the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $1,000.

(3) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the fourth degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is at least $200 but does not exceed $500.

(4) Shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $200.

The value of the merchandise involved in a violation of this section may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense where the acts or conduct constituting a violation were committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same person or several persons, or were committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise.

Additionally, notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided in N.J.S.2C:43-6 or 2C:43-8, any person convicted of a shoplifting offense shall be sentenced to perform community service as follows: for a first offense, at least ten days of community service; for a second offense, at least 15 days of community service; and for a third or subsequent offense, a maximum of 25 days of community service and any person convicted of a third or subsequent shoplifting offense shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 90 days.

d. Presumptions. Any person purposely concealing unpurchased merchandise of any store or other retail mercantile establishment, either on the premises or outside the premises of such store or other retail mercantile establishment, shall be prima facie presumed to have so concealed such merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof, and the finding of such merchandise concealed upon the person or among the belongings of such person shall be prima facie evidence of purposeful concealment; and if such person conceals, or causes to be concealed, such merchandise upon the person or among the belongings of another, the finding of the same shall also be prima facie evidence of willful concealment on the part of the person so concealing such merchandise.

e. A law enforcement officer, or a special officer, or a merchant, who has probable cause for believing that a person has willfully concealed unpurchased merchandise and that he can recover the merchandise by taking the person into custody, may, for the purpose of attempting to effect recovery thereof, take the person into custody and detain him in a reasonable manner for not more than a reasonable time, and the taking into custody by a law enforcement officer or special officer or merchant shall not render such person criminally or civilly liable in any manner or to any extent whatsoever.

Any law enforcement officer may arrest without warrant any person he has probable cause for believing has committed the offense of shoplifting as defined in this section.

A merchant who causes the arrest of a person for shoplifting, as provided for in this section, shall not be criminally or civilly liable in any manner or to any extent whatsoever where the merchant has probable cause for believing that the person arrested committed the offense of shoplifting.

f. Any person who possesses or uses any antishoplifting or inventory control device countermeasure within any store or other retail mercantile establishment is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.


How can a lawyer help me?

       An experienced Criminal Trial Attorney can help you in several ways.  In all cases we try to have the case dismissed outright if the arrest was anyway improper.  That means the slightest defect in the States case, from lack of probable cause, to the way the stores security officers detained you, and numerous other technicalities may foreclose prosecution.  

       Even if there are no avenues of total defense, an Attorny can still help by working with the prosecutor to downgrade or plead the offense to one with minimal fines, no jail time, and no criminal record that could harm your future livlihood.  

       There are hundreds of possible defenses against the State's case, and only an experienced Attorney will recognize them all.  A conviction for shoplifting can carry lifetime consequences, and it is important to protect yourself with the best Criminal Defense Lawyer possible.


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a minor (juvenile), someone under 18 years old, is arrested for shoplifting?

When a minor is caught shoplifting, they should be charged with Juvenile Delinquency instead of shoplifting.  Although NJ’s juvenile justice system is generally more lenient and provides greater latitude for a Judge to craft an appropriate punishment, someone thus charged can still face nearly the same consequences as if faced with shoplifting instead.  For more information on this please see here.

I only accidentally took the merchandise, is this a defense?

Accidental shoplifting happens fairly frequently and may be a defense in some circumstances.  New Jersey's shoplifting statute, 2C:20-11, however makes it fairly difficult to defend on this basis however, as it gives a presumption of an intent to steal.  Even so, every case is very fact sensitive and require careful review, for a free consultation, please call 201-943-2445 to schedule an appointment with one of our New Jersey Criminal Shoplifting Defense Attorneys.

The police are about to arrest me, what do I do?

In nearly all circumstances we tell our clients it is best to remain silent until they have consulted with us.  The police will try to have you implicate yourself, it is imperative you do not give them any more ammunition in order to convict you with.  If you are about to be arrested or have been, do not talk to anyone until you contact our criminal defense team.

Can I just pay the property owner (victim) back, and avoid prosecution?

It is often possible, as part of a plea agreement, in exchange for a reduction or dismissal of charges, it is possible to negotiate a payment of compensation for damage.  This is especially true with regard to minors.  

      This is not always an option however, in many cases the prosecutor may wish to charge criminally and require compensation concurrently. Before doing so in either case however, you should consult our defense team as occasionally repayment may be used against you in court as evidence of guilt.

What is the difference between 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and Disorderly Persons Shoplifting in NJ?

The difference is in the gradation of the offense.  The gradation of a NJ Shoplifting offense, as outlined above, generally depends upon the amount of property stolen.  For a 3rd degree shoplifting, the possible jail time is a presumptive 3-5 years in prison.  This is a very dangerous crime to be charged with, and is very common given the low threshhold of only taking $501 worth of property.  For a 4th degree shoplifting charge, the possible jail time is 18 months in prison.  For a Disorderly Persons grade of shoplifting, you will face a maximum possible 6 months of jail.

2nd Degree shoplifting occurs far less frequently as an accused has to have stolen over $75,000 of merchandise or have been involved with an organized criminal enterprise.  2nd degree offense’s carry up to 10 years in prison.

If they have caught me and there are no defenses, what can I do?

In some situations the police have caught the defendant dead to rights and there are no defenses.  In situations like these we have often been successful in downgrading the offense to a far lesser penalty and no jail time.  Another approach is to enter our client into a diversionary program such as Pre Trial Intervention (PTI) or Conditional Discharge (CD).  These programs provide the benefit of no jail time and no criminal record.  We have been successful with combinations of the two as well when dealing with high level offenders.

I have been convicted for shoplifting before, but in another state, how does this affect the case?

New Jersey's shoplifting law does not specifically include a step up provision for repeat offenders, and therefore there is not necessarily any increase in penalties.  Judge's do however take note of prior offenses in their sentencing decisions and will more often than not give greater, if not maximal, sentences for repeat offenders.  If you have been caught in any state including NJ for shoplifting or other related offenses it is even more urgent to be represented by a compentent criminal defense attorney.

There is a mandatory 90 days in prison for third time shoplifting offen provision for third time shoplifting offenses.

How long after a shoplifting conviction can I have it expunged from my permanent record?

The term someone must wait to expunge their records of any crime depends on the nature of the crime and its gradation.  

Are store employees (security) allowed to detain me?

If a store clerk, or security employees has probable cause to believe someone is stealing or otherwise committing a theft, they may detain them. Any detention must be only for a reasonable time to investigate or to otherwise alert the police.  The employees must also be reasonable as to the means the employ to hold someone.     This reasonableness requirement is an often missed defense in shoplifting cases.  If you have been accused of shoplifting in nj, and feel that the store employees / clerks were overzealous and impermissibly detained you, you may be able to fight the case.  For a free consultation, please call us at 201-943-2445.

How does a shoplifting charge / conviction affect my immigration status?

The United States has very restrictive immigration laws, and a NJ Shoplifting charge can have dire consequences, including possible deportation and inadmissibility back into the US.  

Shoplifting charges are generally considered a crime “involving moral turpitude.”    The Department of Homeland Security is mandated to remove non-citizens who commit certain crimes, including crimes “involving moral turpitude”.  Because of this it is even more urgent for Green Card holders, Visa holders, Permanent Residents, or non-citizens to be represented by a shoplifting defense lawyer, and fight the charges.  

If you have been charged with any criminal offense in NJ and are not a citizen, don’t risk immigration consequences.  Our lawyers have great success in protecting our clients from the immigration consequences of shoplifting.

What is the difference between Shoplifting and Theft?

When a Theft and Shoplifting are very similar crimes.  Both crimes carry nearly identical punishments, and proofs.  Shoplifting is what is charged when people steal from a store, whereas theft is generally any other taking.  For more information on NJ Theft charges, please see here.

Where do you practice?

Our NJ Theft Defense Attorneys regularly defend clients in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Morris, Union, Sussex, and Essex counties.  We also regularly are able to have the charges downgraded and heard in the municipal courts of the State.

I only accidentally shoplifted, what happens?

Accidental shoplifting happens more often than one would thing.  Often times someone will walk out of a store just to have the electronic countermeasures sound an alarm.  In cases like this, we are often successful in convincing the store to not press charges for a simple mistake.  Other times we have to convince a Judge or prosecutor that this was happenstance and a client had no intent to steal.  These shoplifting cases happen most often in the NJ Malls, such as the Garden State Plaza.  These cases are very fact sensitive, call today to speak with our shoplifting experts today.

The stores security guards detained me against my will, is this a defense?

In some cases, where the private security of the store unlawfully detained a defendant, there can be a defense.  A store like TJ Max, Macys, or any other merchant can employ private security.  They are allowed to detain people upon reasonable cause.  They need a real reason for stopping you (it cannot be just a hunch, or racism) and must follow proper procedure.  If you feel a stores internal security violated your rights, contact a shoplifting defense attorney today.

© Avery & Avery, Esqs., 2012-2017 All rights reserved. Robert W. Avery, Esq., Avery & Avery, Esqs., www.averylaw-nj.com, drugcrimedefenselawyer-nj.com, trafficticketlawyer-nj.com, and criminaldefenselawyer-nj.com, own all intellectual property rights, including all copyrights, in and related to the content and top design of this site and the organization of the information contained in this site. Disclaimer: This website is made available by Robert W. Avery, Esq., and Avery & Avery, Esqs., to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice.  By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the website publisher.  Communication by you (via email, facsimile, or telephone) does not create an attorney client relationship, which can only be accomplished by a written retainer agreement between lawyer and client.  Our top priority is to provide all of our clients and those who search for us, whether for personal injury matters, general trial work, criminal arrests, drug and marijuana arrests, municipal court dui dwi drunk driving arrests and breathalyzer/alcotest refusal representation, or for estate planning, estate administration, powers or attorney, living wills, advance directives, or for their last will and testament, with the best representation and best defense available anywhere. Our primary practice is in the Bergen County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Morris County, Essex County, Sussex County and the North New Jersey region.