Shoplifting in New Jersey and Immigration Consequences

The consequences of a shoplifting conviction can be devastating to any criminal defendant.  If the defendant is not a U.S. Citizen, there may be immigration ramifications as well, possibly resulting in the Department of Homeland Security initiating removal proceedings.  In New Jersey, the Shoplifting statute can be found at NJSA 2C:20-11.  The penalties are laid out under 2C:20-11(c):

(1) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the second degree under subsection of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is $75,000 or more, or the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with an organized retail theft enterprise and the full retail value of the merchandise is $1,000 or more.

(2) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the third degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise exceeds $500 but is less than $ 75,000, or the offense is committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with and organized retail theft enterprise and the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $1,000.

(3) Shoplifting constitutes a crime of the fourth degree under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is at least $200.00 but does not exceed $500.00.

(4) Shoplifting is a disorderly person offense under subsection b. of this section if the full retail value of the merchandise is less than $200.00.

The value of the merchandise involved in a violation of this section may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense where the acts or conduct constituting a violation were committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same person or several persons, or were committed in furtherance of or in conjunction with and organized retail theft enterprise.

Additionally, notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided in N.J.S.2C:43-6 or 2C:43-8,  any person convicted of a shoplifting offense shall be sentenced to perform community service as follows: for a first offense, at least ten days of community service; for a second offense, at least 15 days of community service; and for a third or subsequent offense, a maximum of 25 days of community service and any person convicted of a third or subsequent shoplifting offense shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 90 days.

If shoplifting is prosecuted as a 4th degree crime or higher, then the case will be heard in the Superior Court and prosecuted by the County Prosecutor’s Office.  If the aggregate value of the merchandise is under $200, or the Prosecutor’s Office decides to remand the case to municipal court, then the charge will be prosecuted as a “disorderly persons offense” by a Municipal Prosecutor in the town’s local Municipal Court.  Immigrant defendants must be especially wary before entering guilty pleas to shoplifting due to their potential exposure to removability.  Every case is obviously fact sensitive with different circumstances leading to different results.   However, every defendant who is not a US Citizen must seek not only a qualified criminal defense attorney but also immigration counsel to determine what impact a guilty plea may have on their legal status.  There are a number of issues that need to be addressed including Aggravated Felonies, Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude, the concepts of Inadmissibility, and Deportability. Additionally, if one has a previous criminal conviction, that prior offense can also affect the way in which the DHS and/or the Immigration Court classifies and determines whether someone is removable from the United States.