Civil Penalty for Shoplifting

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Civil Penalties in Shoplifting Cases

If you have been arrested for shoplifting in New Jersey you will normally be asked to pay a civil penalty to the store as well in addition to any restitution you have pay back to store for the cost of any damaged or lost merchandise that was taken or removed from its packaging. Our New Jersey shoplifting lawyers are used to dealing with civil penalties in coordination with our client’s criminal defense and help our clients step through the process and explain any questions or concerns along the way.

What is a Civil Demand for Shoplifting?

A civil demand is a law that allows store owners to pursue civil penalties against people who are caught shoplifting from their store. The law pertaining to civil penalties is found under N.J.S.A. 2A:61C-1 and it provides that a store can initial seek up $150 from the person who stole from their store. It is important to note that if the defendant is a juvenile charged with shoplifting then the civil penalty will most likely be assessed against his or her parents.

Civil Action For Shoplifting in New Jersey

2A:61C-1 Shoplifting, retail thefts, civil action; provided.

1. a. A person who commits the offense of shoplifting as defined in N.J.S.2C:20-11 or a person who commits the offense of theft as defined in Chapter 20 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes by stealing food or drink from an eating establishment shall be liable for any criminal penalties imposed by law and shall be liable to the merchant in a civil action in an amount equal to the following:

(1)The value of the merchandise as damages, not to exceed $500, if the merchandise cannot be restored to the merchant in its original condition;

(2)Additional damages, if any, arising from the incident, not to include any loss of time or wages incurred by the merchant in connection with the apprehension of the defendant; and

(3)A civil penalty payable to the merchant in an amount of up to $150.

b.A parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of a minor who commits the offense of shoplifting or the offense of theft of food or drink from an eating establishment shall be liable to the merchant for the damages specified in subsection a. of this section. This subsection shall not apply to a parent whose parental custody and control of such minor has been removed by court order, decree, judgment, military service, or marriage of such infant, or to a resource family parent of such minor.

c.If a merchant institutes a civil action pursuant to the provisions of this section, the prevailing party in that action shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and reasonable court costs.

d.Limitations on civil action:

(1)Before a civil action may be commenced, the merchant shall send a notice to the defendant’s last known address giving the defendant 20 days to respond. It is not a condition precedent to maintaining an action under this act that the defendant has been convicted of shoplifting or theft.

(2)No civil action under this act may be maintained if the defendant has paid the merchant a penalty equal to the retail value of the merchandise where the merchandise was not recovered in its original condition, plus a sum of up to $150.

(3)The provisions of this act do not apply in any case where the value of the merchandise exceeds $500.

e.If the person to whom a written demand is made complies with such demand within 20 days following the receipt of the demand, that person shall be given a written release from further civil liability with respect to the specific act of shoplifting or theft.

Will Paying the Civil Penalty Mean I’m Guilty of Shoplifting?

The simple answer is No – one has nothing to do with the other. In fact, even if the criminal shoplifting charges are dismissed, the store can and will still come after you for their civil reimbursement. However, most times you can have the store’s attorney send you a certification stating that payment of the civil penalty in no way amounts to a plea of guilty or admission of shoplifting that can be used in a criminal prosecution. This is especially a concern for our clients who are not U.S. citizens and are worried about possible immigration consequences of a shoplifting conviction. In almost every shoplifting case we handle where our clients are not citizens we will offer to work hand in hand with their immigration attorney to coordinate our efforts.