Posted by Scott Gorman - July 13, 2017

In an overwhelming number of cases, teenagers commit crimes because they are bored or because they like the rush of breaking the law and doing something illegal. Often, young thrill-seekers don’t stop to think about the consequences of the laws they’re breaking or what will happen if they get caught.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of a challenge, like sneaking a lipstick from the makeup counter or cutting tags in the dressing room of a clothing store and leaving with the clothes. But if you do get caught, the consequences for shoplifting are serious and could lead to jail time, fines and other penalties — even as a young offender.

Shoplifting is considered any instance of taking merchandise with the intent to not pay for it, or to pay less than the price for which it is being sold. This can include any of the following acts:

  • Leaving a store with items hidden or stashed on your person
  • Leaving a store with items in a bag or shopping cart without paying
  • Swapping the tag from one item with the tag of another, less expensive item to lower the price at checkout
  • Hiding an item in another item, and only buying one
  • Cutting tags or price indicators off of an item and wearing it out of the store

How is Shoplifting Charged?

In New Jersey, there are different degrees of shoplifting, and each degree depends upon the value of the item or items that were stolen. The degrees are outlined below, along with their respective penalties:

  • Disorderly persons – this is charged when the retail value of the stolen item is under $200. Shoplifters could face up to 6 months in jail, and a $1,000 fine. Anyone convicted must also serve at least 10 days of community service for a first offense, 15 days for a second, and up to 25 days for any subsequent offense. Also, a third or subsequent offense will result in a mandatory jail term of at least 90 days.
  • Fourth degree – retail value is over $200 but less than $500. Shoplifter could face up to 18 months in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
  • Third degree – retail value is greater than $500 but less than $75,000. Shoplifter could be sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 maximum fine.
  • Second degree – retail value is $75,000 or more. Shoplifter could be behind bars for 5 to 10 years, and pay fines up to $150,000.


Any instance of theft that uses violence or force—threatening someone, pushing or shoving someone who is trying to stop you, or other violent acts—can cause a shoplifting charge to be elevated to a robbery. Robbery is a second-degree crime, and offenders could face up to 10 years in prison, and could be subject to the No Early Release Act. Armed robbery is a first-degree offense, and can carry a 10 to 20-year jail sentence.

Juvenile Shoplifters

Even if you are stealing a cheap lipstick for a harmless prank, getting caught could have you spending time in jail, paying fines, spending time in community service or all three. It’s important that young teens understand exactly what is involved with a shoplifting charge and what a snap decision to steal something could mean for their futures.

For more information, contact Scott Gorman, a leading Essex County juvenile attorney at The Gorman Law Firm.

Published in Categories: Juvenile Defense