Interviewer: You said the Courts and the stores have a hard line on this. What kind of penalty is someone facing for a first-time shoplifting charge?
In New Jersey, Plea Bargains are Not Offered for Shoplifting Offenses
If it is a first offense, the Defendant may request admission to the Conditional Dismissal Program.
What has happened in New Jersey is plea bargains are not allowed on shoplifting, so the guilty plea becomes part of a criminal record. The person gets a record for a first-time shoplifting offense. The maximum fine for Municipal Court offenses is $1000.00 and maximum jail term is six months.
A Conviction Will Become Part of an Individual’s Criminal Record
The Courts used to allow shoplifting to be reduced to an ordinance, but no more. The reason is that if the issue is plea-bargained, it has an effect if there is a second offense, and the State did not want to give people a break with a second offense. Very recently a Conditional Dismissal Program has been implemented for Municipal Court offenses which include shoplifting.
It is Important to Retain an Experienced Attorney to Defend the Shoplifting Charge and/or Prepare the Defendant for Entry into the Conditional Dismissal Program.
The attorney’s job is to make sure that the store has a case. The attorney must take a look at the videotape. The attorney must carefully interview the client. Did he make any statements? Did he put anything in writing? What evidence does the store have?
New Jersey’s Recent Rulings Limit the Negotiation Ability of Attorneys to Try to Mitigate the Severity of the Charges by a Plea Bargain.
The client is paying for you to make sure that they are not being improperly accused. If the evidence points to guilt for a first offense, admission to the Conditional Dismissal Program can be a good option. It is particularly valuable if the Defendant’s job can be put in jeopardy for a record of guilt. The Conditional Dismissal Program can only be used once. The Defendant must be prepared to plead guilty with a factual basis. There must be no prior criminal disorderly person’s offenses or petty disorderly offenses anywhere. There must be no prior diversions in New Jersey. Entry into Pre-Trial Intervention in Superior Court in the past is a disqualifier. There will be fingerprint identification. The Prosecutor must be notified. The circumstances must pass judicial evaluation. There is a $75.00 application fee. There can be restitution costs and mandatory assessments. Typically, this will be capped at $1000.00 for a disorderly person’s offense such as shoplifting and $500.00 for a petty disorderly person’s offense. Shoplifting qualifies as one of the offenses for which the Conditional Dismissal Program is available. It is not available for: (a) organized gang or criminal activity; (b) a continuing criminal enterprise; (c) breach of public trust by public officer or employee; (d) domestic violence; (e) offenses against the elderly or disabled; (f) DWI or driving under the influence of a habit producing drug; (g) violation of animal cruelty laws; (h) any violation of offenses under Chapter 35 or 36 of Title 2C.
Attorney Pivawer Recommends Counseling for Her Clients to Demonstrate Proactive Behavior to the Court.
I generally ask for minimum fines. I always recommend that the client at least go to a psychologist and come in with a note to indicate that they are receiving treatment. They usually are very willing.