We've all done things we shouldn't have in the past. But if you have a criminal conviction for shoplifting in your past, you undoubtedly want to ensure that you don't make the same mistakes in the future. Maybe you want to go to college, graduate school, or enter the military. Unfortunately, a criminal history can often hold you back from education and scholarships, jobs, professional licensing, and even loans or rental opportunities. Fortunately, New Jersey law allows you a second chance through expungement.
Expungement is a court process used to clear criminal convictions and arrest records. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 (2019). Under the statute, you can expunge “complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets,” and judicial docket records.” While expungement can extract these records, they still exist, and law enforcement officers can access them. You don't have to have an attorney to expunge your shoplifting record, tracking down the records needed can be a long process. An experienced New Jersey expungement attorney can make the process faster and more efficient on your behalf.
Shoplifting Charges in New Jersey
New Jersey law defines shoplifting under its theft statute. While we often think of “shoplifting” as a minor crime, the penalties increase as the value of the stolen merchandise increases. In some cases, shoplifting charges can be quite serious.
- Disorderly Persons Offense
Shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense if the retail value of the stolen merchandise is under $200. A disorderly persons offense is equivalent to a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. A second, third, or subsequent offense is a fourth-degree indictable offense, equivalent to a felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Fourth-Degree Indictable Offense
Shoplifting is a fourth-degree indictable offense if the total value of the stolen merchandise equals $200 to $500. A fourth-degree indictable offense is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Third-Degree Indictable Offense
Shoplifting is a third-degree indictable offense if the total value of the stolen merchandise equals between $500 to under $75,000. If the theft is part of an “organized retail theft enterprise,” then it may also be a third-degree indictable offense if the total retail value of the merchandise is less than $1,000. A third-degree indictable offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
- Second-Degree Indictable Offense
Shoplifting becomes a second-degree indictable offense if the total value of the stolen merchandise is $75,000 or more or if the theft is part of an “organized retail theft enterprise” and the merchandise is worth more than $1,000. A second-degree indictable offense is punishable by five to ten years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
Who Is Eligible to Expunge a Shoplifting Conviction in New Jersey?
You may be eligible to expunge a shoplifting conviction, depending on the severity of the charge and whether you have any prior shoplifting convictions. New Jersey law offers three pathways to expunge a criminal record, depending on your criminal history.
- Traditional Pathway Expungement
New Jersey's law has one traditional path for expungement. Under the traditional method, you can expunge one indictable offense and up to three disorderly persons offenses, or five disorderly offenses or petty disorderly offenses. The waiting period before applying for expungement is five years after completing your sentence and paying all fines.
- Early Pathway Expungement
New Jersey now also offers an early pathway expungement. This pathway may be an option if you haven't had any additional arrests or convictions, met all the court's requirements, and have compelling circumstances. Compelling circumstances can includea job or educational opportunities. The waiting period for the early pathway expungement is three years after completing your sentence.
- Clean Slate Expungement
The Clean Slate pathway is New Jersey's newest expungement option. Under Clean Slate, you can expunge your whole criminal history ten years after completing all court requirements. Even if you were ineligible to expunge your shoplifting conviction under the traditional pathway because you have more than one indictable offense or because you have already expunged your record, you may be able to expunge your record under Clean Slate.
Can I Expunge My Shoplifting Conviction?
Some crimes can never be expunged under New Jersey law. These crimes include serious offenses such as sexual assault, homicide, kidnapping, or robbery. However, most shoplifting convictions should be expungable. The best way to determine whether your conviction is eligible for expungement is to consult an experienced New Jersey expungement attorney like Joseph Lento.
Sealing Your New Jersey Shoplifting Record
If you're unable to expunge your record in New Jersey, you may still be able to have your record sealed. Sealing can remove your criminal records from public view, only allowing access in very limited circumstances and for compelling reasons. While sealing doesn't allow as much privacy as expungement, it can be easier to obtain. A skilled expungement lawyer can review your case and your criminal history and offer you the best options for your situation.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Expungement Attorney
Having a shoplifting conviction on your record can keep you from many opportunities in life, particularly an indictable offense. It can limit your education, scholarship opportunities, ability to obtain professional licensing, and more for the rest of your life. You shouldn't let your criminal record keep you from the life you want. A skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in expungement cases can help.
Attorney Joseph Lento and the experienced team at The Lento Law Firm have helped many people in New Jersey through the expungement process, and they can help you too. Give them a call at 888-535-3686 or contact them online and schedule your consultation today.