With more than 200 retail establishments and 1.5 million square feet of retail space, Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ is the fourth-largest shopping mall in the state. It would be a mistake to assume that the size of the mall makes it hard to police for shoplifting. Anyone accused of shoplifting at the Willowbrook Mall is facing a criminal charge with heavy fines and potential jail time. Here’s what anyone charged with shoplifting should know about the crime, its associated penalties, and how to defend oneself.
How New Jersey Defines Shoplifting
N.J.S.C. 2C:20-11, the criminal code for shoplifting, describes four main acts that can result in a criminal charge:
- Purposeful taking of merchandise without paying.
- This is the most common form of shoplifting. To be convicted, a person must be proven to have taken (or intended to take) something out of the store without paying for it by concealing, hiding, or wearing the merchandise.
- Altering or transferring a price tag.
- If a person takes a price tag from a less expensive item and transfers it to a more expensive item, this can trigger a charge of shoplifting. The same is true if the item is removed from its proper container and placed in a container for a lower-value item. In either case, if the suspect pays for the item, he/she will not have paid the full value.
- Under-ringing merchandise.
- This happens when a store employee intentionally issues an unauthorized discount by undercharging himself or a customer.
- Removing a shopping cart from the premises
- Most people don’t realize that shopping carts are property of the store or mall. Although they are not offered for sale, taking one off store property is considered shoplifting.
See Also: NJ Shoplifting FAQ
How Do Shoplifters Get Caught?
Shoplifting caught taking items off the shelf and hiding them are usually caught on security cameras first. At the Willowbrook Mall and other malls in New Jersey there are usually cameras inside every store and in the common areas of the mall itself. Most people would be shocked to learn that clothing stores can and do install security cameras inside dressing rooms.
Malls employ loss prevention officers whose job it is to keep watch for potential acts of theft. Of course, anyone employed by the mall can potentially catch a shoplifter in the act.
Caught Shoplifting: What Happens Now?
What happens when a person is caught shoplifting varies from mall to mall. Typically, the person will be approached by a loss prevention (LP) officer employed by the mall. The LP officer will make the accusation and escort the accused into the loss prevention office. New Jersey law allows the mall to detain anyone believed to have shoplifted or attempted to shoplift. However, keep in mind that most will have policies forbidding LP officers from touching suspects.
Usually, the primary goal of detaining someone is the recovery of any shoplifted items. At this point, the store can demand payment of a civil fine of $150 plus the cost of “damage” (i.e. the value of the stolen goods). They may insist this fine be paid in exchange for “leniency.” Do not pay it at that point in time! While some stores may indeed opt not to press charges afterwards, it is just as likely the payment will be used in court against the shopper as an admission of guilt.
Anyone detained for shoplifting could be arrested, but more often police issue an “appearance ticket.” This will establish a court date at which the shopper must respond to the charges.
Penalties for Shoplifting at Willowbrook Mall
The fines and potential sentence for shoplifting is dependent on the value of the merchandise in question. The chart below explains:
|Shoplifting Value||Potential Sentence|
|Less than $200||Up to 6 months in jail|
|More than $200 up to $500||Up to 18 months in jail|
|More than $500 and less than $75,000||3 to 5 years in prison|
|More than $75,000||5 to 10 years in prison|
Shoplifting is charged as a disorderly persons offense when the value is less than $200 and as a felony or “degree crime” when the value is over $200. In addition to jail time, those convicted of shoplifting can be charged fines ranging from $1,000 to as much as $150,000, depending on the cost of the stolen items. They could also be forced to reimburse the store owner for the cost of the goods. It should be noted that multiple instances of shoplifting can be aggregated into a single charge based on the total value of the merchandise in question.
Getting convicted of shoplifting can also result in a criminal record. This can have a serious impact on one’s life for many years, affecting employment, the ability to rent or buy a home, and educational opportunities. It can also affect one’s immigration status.
Wayne, NJ Shoplifting Attorney
For the most part, fighting a shoplifting charge comes down to a question of intent. While some situations, such as changing price tags and under-ringing merchandise, don’t require proof of intent, the majority of instances do. A person who can prove that a product was removed from the store by accident (or disprove that it was removed intentionally) is likely to avoid a conviction. No matter what the circumstances, anyone charged with shoplifting would be well advised to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for shoplifting or for any other criminal offense in New Jersey, contact the Rosenblum Law Firm right away. Our talented criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience fighting shoplifting charges. Email or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.