I frequently represent clients charged with shoplifting in New Jersey in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. With offices in Paramus, Hackensack, and Morristown, I appear in courts throughout northern New Jersey on shoplifting charges on a regular basis. There are a number of ways to defend against a shoplifting case including the following:
1. State fails to provide evidence in a timely manner
As a defendant in a shoplifting case, you have a right to due process as well as a right to a speedy trial. In some cases, the State fails to provide the defense with all evidence available which they intend to use to prove the charges against you (like a video for example). In these case, many times the judge will sign a discovery order known as a “Holup” order (pursuant to State v. Holup). This order gives the state a time period to produce the discovery (say 30 days). If the state fails to produce that discovery within the allotted time, the charges can be dismissed altogether.
2. Pre-Trial Intervention
If the amount of the alleged shoplifting is over $200 and you have no prior criminal record, you are eligible for the Pre-Trial Intervention program. This diversionary program for first time offenders puts you on probation for a period of time (typically one year) and requires that you pay certain program fees and comply with the conditions of probation. If you remain arrest free and comply with the conditions of probation, the charges are dismissed at the end of the probationary period : you have no criminal record. Unfortunately, PTI is not available for disorderly persons offenses in Municipal Court.
3. The store representative fails to appear in court
If the store representative (the State’s witness) fails to appear in court, the State will not be able to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. The store employee who witnessed the alleged incident must testify or the State will not be able to prove their case. Any police reports or video evidence is useless without eyewitness testimony to the alleged crime. Therefore, I have had cases where the case was set for trial and the store representative did not show up in court and the charges were dismissed.
4. Negotiate a plea bargain to a downgraded charge
It is also permissible to plea-bargain shoplifting offenses in New Jersey. I may be able to negotiate a downgrade to a non-criminal offense (known as an ordinance violation) or to a lesser criminal offense (such as a petty disorderly persons offense for disorderly conduct) which will look better on your record. It is also not a “crime of moral terpitude” like shoplifting so this can have a major impact on any immigration issues you may have. The ability to negotiate a downgrade depends on the court, the judge, the prosecutor, the circumstances of the alleged offense, the amount of the alleged shoplifting offense, and any prior criminal record you may have.
5. Take the case to trial and win
If all else fails, you can always take the case to trial. This must only be done in certain circumstances where viable defenses are present. Remember, if you take the case to trial and lose, the judge can give you up to six (6) months in the county jail on a disorderly persons shoplifting case. However, if you win at trial, the charges are dismissed and you have no record. This is a gamble that should be taken only with an experienced shoplifting defense lawyer at your side and after considering all the above defense strategies beforehand.
For additional information on shoplifting charges in New Jersey, contact my office anytime at (201)556-1570. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.