Are Shoplifting Cases Defensible?

Interviewer: Have you found viable defenses for these cases? What kind of defenses have you found and how do you defend the case like this?

Attorney Pivawer Examines the Store’s Video of the Alleged Shoplifting Incident

Jacqueline: I do review the store’s video, for example, if it’s not clear that the person actually walked out with the merchandise.

I had a case where a man had tried on some sunglasses and he had approached the store exit, but he went back in and so they couldn’t really prove that he left the premises. It really is very fact-based.

Attorney Pivawer Believes It Can Be Beneficial if Clients Demonstrate Remorse

When you say, “How do you defend it?” you know, there’s no legal miracles I can use in court. If someone is captured on video having taken items and concealed them, then the statutory factors are met. I don’t believe that any lawyer trick is going to make that fact go away, and given the position of the court, my best defense is to ask for the minimum fines and penalties and to show the court that the client realizes this action was wrong, especially if they’re caught dead-to-rights.

I have to give the client advice in terms of harm to their record. A guilty plea to a municipal court offense cannot be expunged for five years. It must be weighed and balanced against the potential of entering the Conditional Dismissal Program.

Interviewer: So, this offense can be expunged or sealed at some point in time?

New Jersey Law Allows Expungement of This Offense after Five Years Has Passed and the Individual Has Not Been Charged with another Offense

Jacqueline: Yes. New Jersey has an expungement statute. If there is no other offense or crime within five years, they can file a complaint for an expungement, and the record will be cleared. Notification goes to various entities throughout the state, such as the state police, the Attorney General’s office, the local police chief, the court administrators, and it specifies that the record has to be removed of the arrest as well is the finding of guilt.

After the expungement, the person has a clean record again. With the new Conditional Dismissal Program, it is important to evaluate all options.

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