Shoplifting Expungements in New Jersey

In 2018, the FBI reported that annual losses across the U.S. created by shoplifting exceed $116 million. Having a criminal record, such as from shoplifting or other forms of theft, creates adverse consequences for those subjected to background screening. Background checks are commonly conducted by educational institutions, employers, property managers, agencies that issue professional licenses, and more. Those responsible for reviewing the results of these reports may infer that those with theft convictions cannot be trusted.


One potential solution for resolving evidence of past criminal convictions in New Jersey is to legally clear your record through the process of expungement. This process involves formally petitioning the court to obtain an order. Expungement allows those who have had past criminal convictions to obtain a “fresh start.” Specific eligibility requirements exist for obtaining an expungement.

Defining Shoplifting (2C:20-11)

The crime of shoplifting involves assuming possession of, transporting or transferring merchandise belonging to stores or retailers without paying full retail price. The act is done knowingly and generally involves concealment. It may involve altering or transferring labels or price tags, as well as placing merchandise in alternate containers or packaging. It may involve intentional acts of manipulation that allow for “under-ringing” of merchandise. When two or more individuals are involved it may be deemed as an “organized retail theft enterprise.”

Shoplifting Offenses in New Jersey are classified according to the value of what is obtained as follows:

Offense Level

Retail Value

Penalty: Incarceration

Penalty: Fine

Second Degree

$75,000 or more

Between 5 and 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

Between $500 and $75,000

Between 3 and 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

Between $200 and $500

Up to 18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

Less than $200

Up to 6 months

Up to $1,000

In addition, those convicted of shoplifting may be ordered to complete a number of days of community service. The number of days that may be imposed range from 10 to 25 days based on any prior convictions. If an individual is found to have tampered with or destroyed a security or inventory control device they are guilty of a disorderly person offense.

Eligibility for Expungement

To be eligible for expungement of indictable shoplifting charges (second, third, or fourth degree), a period of six years must have passed. There is an “early pathway” program that may allow for an indictable offense to be expunged when only five years has elapsed. The early pathway option requires that some supportive documentation be produced for the court. Petitioners must have had no subsequent convictions. To expunge a disorderly person offense five years must have elapsed, with the possibility of an early pathway expungement after three years.

Provisions Relating to Shoplifting “Sprees”

A new law allows those who committed multiple criminal acts in a short span of time to consolidate the convictions as a single episode. This is critical because prior to the change, expungements of indictable offenses could only be done for one conviction. For example, someone who was found to have shoplifted from two stores on the same day may have these combined—and later expunged together.

New Jersey Defense Attorney for Theft Charges

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been representing clients in cases involving shoplifting and other criminal matters for many years. This experience allows him to create highly effective defense strategies. For a complimentary case evaluation, contact the office at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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