New Jersey Shoplifting Law

We represent clients charged with N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11; New Jersey shoplifting complaints in New Jersey municipalities including East Brunswick, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, Edison, Old Bridge, North Brunswick, South Brunswick, South River, Monroe and Sayreville and shoplifting indictments filed in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Somerset County, Essex County, Union County, and Hudson County.

It is a crime of the second degree if the full retail value of the merchandise is seventy five thousand dollars or more.

It is a crime of the third degree if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds five hundred dollars but is less than seventy five thousand dollars.

It is a crime of the fourth degree if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds two hundred dollars but is less than five hundred dollars.

It is a disorderly persons offense if the full retail value of the merchandise is less than two hundred dollars.

Hence, under New Jersey shoplifting law, the first question is always the value of the merchandise involved, because municipal courts have jurisdiction over theft cases when the amount in controversy is less than $200.

Although county prosecutors may handle cases that involve $200 or more, frequently they downgrade such cases to the municipal level.

However, when the value involved is in excess of $500 county prosecutors more often than not elect to indict the case because that is already a third degree crime.

Under New Jersey Shoplifting law, there are six ways a person can commit shoplifting.

First, carrying away or transferring merchandise from a store with intent to deprive the merchant of possession.

Second, purposeful concealment of merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of possession.

Third, altering or changing price tags.

Fourth, moving merchandise from one container to another with the intent of depriving the merchant of the full price.

Fifth, under ringing merchandise.

Sixth, removing a shopping cart from the premises.

In addition, under New Jersey shoplifting law possession or use of an anti shoplifting or inventory control device is a disorderly persons offense.

This offense occurs only if the device is used within a store.

The following discussion applies mainly to shoplifting as a disorderly persons offense because most shoplifting cases are handled in the municipal court rather than the county level.


Under New Jersey shoplifting law a third conviction of shoplifting carries a mandatory jail term of 90 days.

A person convicted of shoplifting is subject to a fine of up to $500 for first and second offenses and up to $1000 for a third offense.

If a motor vehicle was used in the course of committing the offense, the court may suspend the defendant's driver's license up to two years.

If the defendant holds a public office, a conviction may result in forfeiture of office.

Finally, a defendant who committed a shoplifting offense is liable for a civil penalty as well as criminal punishment.

Merchant's attorney will typically send notice to defendant to pay a civil penalty of $150.

If defendant refuses to pay this penalty then the merchant will institute an action in civil court to collect this fine.

Should the merchant prevail in its civil action the court will award it attorney's fees and court costs.


Provided defendant has not been convicted of more than three disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses, or defendant has not been convicted of an indictable offense, he or she may have their conviction expunged five years after sentence is carried out.

Statute of Limitations

Prosecution must be commenced within 1 year after the offense is committed.

Prosecution commences when a warrant or other process such as a summons or complaint is issued.


Merchants at times fail to appear in court to prosecute the charge.

Defendant is entitled to ask of the Judge to dismiss the charge for failure by the complainant to prosecute the offense.

However, Judges frequently afford merchants at least two opportunities to appear before they dismiss the charge.

If charges are not dismissed try to obtain a city, township or borough ordinance even if it means paying a high fine because it would save one from the stigma of having a theft charge appear on one's record.

In certain cases, the prosecutor or even the Judge will not agree to downgrade the charge to a municipal violation.

In that case defendant should consider pleading guilty to receiving stolen property N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7 instead of shoplifting N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, because it would avoid current or future exposure to mandatory incarceration for a third conviction.

Restitution is vital in these cases because it will serve as a powerful mitigating factor at sentencing, placate any victims and show an ability to be rehabilitated without the need of incarceration.

If at all possible, defendant should seek therapy before sentencing as it would serve as a powerful mitigating factor before the Judge at sentencing.

Defendant should be ready to present evidence that he or she is striving to become rehabilitated and it is improbable that he or she will become involved in this type of conduct in the future.

If you have any questions for a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer about a New Jersey shoplifting charge, please do not hesitate to contact us.