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How downgrading shoplifting offenses works

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Theft Crimes |

Shoplifting can refer to a broad list of retail theft actions, such as attempting to sneak merchandise out of a store or switching around the price tags. The punishments for shoplifting are just as varied, based on the total value of the stolen merchandise. The more expensive the appropriated items, the higher the degree of the crime, and the penalties become harsher on conviction.

For instance, you might face a disorderly persons offense if you attempted to steal items for just under $200. But stealing merchandise worth over $75,000 can lead to a second-degree criminal conviction – the highest criminal degree for shoplifting.

If you face a shoplifting charge, you may be able to downgrade the offense for lower penalties. However, there are limitations to how this downgrading works.

Downgrading restrictions

Per New Jersey law, there’s typically no way to downgrade shoplifting offenses to disorderly persons offenses unless they meet the following criteria:

  • For fourth-degree offenses: A fourth-degree shoplifting offense may be downgraded to a disorderly persons offense at the prosecutor’s discretion. But you can’t have the charge downgraded if it’s your third or subsequent shoplifting offense.
  • For third-degree offenses for theft less than $2,000: Third-degree offenses where the value of the stolen items is less than $2,000 aren’t usually eligible for downgrade. But such cases can still be up for downgrade if there are any issues with trial proof.
  • For third-degree offenses for theft greater or equal to $2,000, second-degree offenses: No downgrade is possible for shoplifting offenses of these degrees.

But if you face a disorderly persons offense, you may be able to have the charge downgraded to a municipal ordinance violation. This violation doesn’t result in a criminal record. And for very minor theft cases, you might also be able to have the charge completely dismissed.

Shoplifting is a crime that can lead to severe penalties upon conviction. But if you face charges, remember that you may be able to have the offense downgraded.