Criminal Defense Lawyer in NJ – What to Do If Caught Shoplifting

Rates of theft typically increase during the holiday season. If you’re caught shoplifting, you need to know the best course of action for your defense. First, you must understand how you’re being charged, and then you can hire the correct criminal defense lawyer in NJ.

How Theft Is Defined in NJ

Criminal statutes in NJ define theft as “unlawful taking” or “exercising of control” over someone else’s property. The offender must act with intent to deprive the owner of their property.

New Jersey classifies theft offenses in various categories dependent upon the value of the property that was stolen.

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  • If the value is less than $200, the theft constitutes Theft as a Disorderly Persons Offense. The punishment for this type of theft can include up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000 (or double the value of the stolen property – whichever amount is higher).
  • If the value is more than $200 but less than $500, the theft constitutes Theft as a Crime of the Fourth Degree. The punishment for this type of theft can include up to 18 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $10,000 (or double the value of the stolen property – whichever amount is higher).
  • If the value is more than $500 but less than $75,000, the theft constitutes Theft as a Crime of the Third Degree. The punishment for this type of theft can include a sentence of 3-5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $15,000 (or double the value of the stolen property – whichever amount is higher).
  • If the value is more than $75,000 the theft constitutes Theft as a Crime of the Second Degree. The punishment for this type of theft can include a sentence of 5-10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $150,000 (or double the value of the stolen property – whichever amount is higher).

Note that in addition to these punishments and fees, the court can also order the offender to pay restitution to the victim, meaning that the offender would pay the theft victim any monetary losses suffered from the theft.

Finally, in addition to criminal court imposed punishments, the theft offender can also be subject to a civil lawsuit from the victim or an establishment representing the victim. Civil suits are considered a separate entity from criminal cases.

Know Your Rights

If you are accused of theft, it’s important to know your rights. If you are still in the vicinity of the area where the item was stolen, remember that you are not mandated to sign a statement or give an admission of guilt if you are not being formally charged with a crime. Security officers or shop owners may try to pressure you into admitting wrongdoing, and they may threaten to call the police.

If the accuser has serious cause to believe you are the perpetrator of the crime, then in all likelihood they will call the police regardless of what you say to them. It’s easier for a criminal defense lawyer to prepare your case if you do not sign a statement or admit your guilt until brought before a judge.

When the police arrive at the scene, you may or may not be arrested depending on how much evidence exists for a crime as well as the value of the property that was stolen. If the value does not exceed $200, you may be issued a notice of infraction by the officer. The infraction resembles a traffic ticket, and it will include a court date.  

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Next Steps

It’s essential to appear in court for your defense, even if you were not arrested at the scene of the theft. Neglecting to appear in court can have very negative consequences for your case, and could ultimately result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

It’s also important to hire a criminal defense lawyer, no matter how small the infraction. Some people just plead guilty and accept the punishments in the hope that the whole issue will “just go away.” While that reasoning may work with minor traffic offenses, it cannot be applied to theft. Even petty thefts will stay on your record unless expunged. They can seriously affect your future, especially for job interviews, applying for loans, or anything that requires a background check.

A criminal defense lawyer will have expert knowledge and background with the legal system, and could possibly find a way to get charges and fines reduced or dismissed. There are also a number of diversion programs available or other alternatives to guilty pleas and convictions – especially for first-time offenders.

Thomas V. Campo – Your Criminal Defense Lawyer in NJ

If you’re accused of theft, it’s crucial to remember your rights and prepare your defense as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Thomas V. Campo can assist you. Unlike many other law offices, Mr. Campo will personally handle your case from start to finish. He can use his decades of experience on both sides of the aisle to prepare the best defense possible. In addition to theft offenses, Mr. Campo has a variety of practice areas, including DWI and drug related crimes. Available 24/7, contact the office today to schedule your free consultation.

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