Shoplifting, a violation of New Jersey Criminal Code 2C:20-11, is a theft offense, the severity of which is determined by the total amount of the merchandise alleged to have been shoplifted.
Municipal Court shoplifting offenses are considered misdemeanor, or disorderly persons crimes. It will appear on a criminal record if convicted. There are special guidelines for the prosecution of shoplifting offenses that, in many instances, will prevent prosecutors from plea bargaining the charge in the Municipal Court. This is not the case in every municipal court in New Jersey. A municipal court lawyer with experience in courts throughout the state (such as myself) will have a better understanding of the posture each court as it pertains to shoplifting.
The bottom line, however, is that in some courts, shoplifting offenses must go to trial, because there is often no downside to going to trial, especially if no plea bargain is offered.
In this recent case, I represented a client in a Essex County municipal court where the State followed the guidelines promulgated and did not plea bargain shoplifting offenses. I appeared with my client on seven different occasions to fight this charge, over the course of 5 months. Finally, the charge was dismissed this week. The State could not produce a necessary witness. I made my motion to dismiss, and following my argument, the Court dismissed the case