At a time when many retailers are closing their doors, The Mall at Short Hills continues to see a lot of foot traffic. With high retail sales comes high levels of shoplifting, which both mall security and local law enforcement take seriously. A person caught shoplifting at the Short Hills Mall can find themselves facing serious criminal charges. No one should take shoplifting charges lightly. Here are some important facts about this crime.
New Jersey Definition of Shoplifting
Anytime a person attempts to deprive a merchant of the full value of a good, that person can be charged with shoplifting under N.J.S.C. 2C:20-11. The statute describes several specific such acts, including:
- Intentionally taking merchandise without paying.
- This is what most think of when they think of shoplifting–removing something from the store without paying for it, either by concealing, hiding, or wearing the merchandise.
- Altering or transferring a price tag/container.
- A person can be charged with shoplifting if they altered the price tag or moved the item to an alternate container that results in it being rung up at less than the full value.
- Under-ringing/unauthorized discounting merchandise.
- An employee who deliberately rings up a lower price for one or more items–whether for himself or a customer–can be charged with shoplifting.
- Removing a shopping cart from the premises
- Shopping carts are also subject to shoplifting laws. Even though they are not for sale, they are considered property of the store or mall.
See Also: NJ Shoplifting FAQ
How Do Malls Catch Shoplifters?
Shoplifters who get caught are usually seen on security cameras. The Mall at Short Hills and other shopping centers in New Jersey have cameras inside every store and in the common areas of the mall itself. In fact, it is possible that clothing stores will have security cameras inside dressing rooms. (Yes, this is legal in NJ!)
Loss prevention officers will patrol the mall in plain-clothes and in uniformed to keep on eye out for potential acts of shoplifting. Despite this, many people are caught in the act of shoplifting by a cashier or other store employee.
What do Malls Do to Those They Catch Shoplifting?
If mall management, security, or store employees believe someone has is attempting to shoplift, the accused will be approached by a loss prevention (LP) officer employed by the mall. Once formally accused of shoplifting, the shopper will be escorted to the loss prevention office. NJ law does allow individuals accused of shoplifting to be detained, but most malls have rules that against the LP officer physically touching a suspect.
While detained, a mall or store employee will attempt to recover any shoplifted items. Sometimes the store will offer to impose a civil fine of $150 plus the cost of “damage” (meaning the cost of the items shoplifted) in exchange for “leniency.” Do not admit guilty or pay the fine at that point! Paying the fine can be construed as admitting guilt, which can be used against a defendant in court. You can always pay the fine later after the criminal case is resolved.
Although one can be arrested for shoplifting, police more often write “appearance tickets.” This will establish a court date at which one will face a judge to respond to the charges.
Penalties for Shoplifting at The Mall at Short Hills
The penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the goods stolen. If the stolen goods have a retail value of less than $200, the defendant can face up to six months in jail. Shoplifting between $200 and $500 worth of merchandise carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail. Someone who steals between $500 and $75,000 worth of goods could spend three to five years in prison. Shoplifting goods valued at more than $75,000 can land one in prison for five to 10 years.
The first of those charges (under $200) is a disorderly persons offense, but the others are classified as felonies under New Jersey law. It should be noted that prosecutors can, in some circumstances, aggregate multiple shoplifting offenses into a single charge; in this case, the punishment would be defined by the total value of merchandise in question. A person convicted of shoplifting can also be ordered to reimburse the store for any unrecoverable shoplifted property. This is in addition to possible fines, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, getting convicted of shoplifting can result in a permanent criminal record. A criminal record can seriously impact many other aspects of one’s life, including the ability to retain or get a job, apply for housing, maintain immigration status and more.
Short Hills, NJ Shoplifting Attorney
The exact defense will depend on the specific circumstances of the charge. Some defenses include inadequate evidence, arguing intent, proving the removal of goods was an accident, and plea bargains. Any charge of shoplifting is a serious matter and should not be handled alone. A person accused of shoplifting should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help get the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for shoplifting or for any other criminal offense in New Jersey, you need the help of the Rosenblum Law Firm. Our experienced criminal defense can evaluate the evidence against you and develop a solid strategy to avoid the most serious consequences. Email or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.