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Understanding the elements of the crime of shoplifting

If you have been charged with the crime of shoplifting, you should understand the elements of the crime. In simplest terms, shoplifting is the theft of merchandise from a place of business, such as a store. In legal terms, shoplifting is larceny. This means that something was taken without the permission of the item's owner and with the intent to keep the owner from having it. Those are also the two elements of the crime of shoplifting.

One thing to realize is that you don't have to leave the store with the merchandise to be charged with the crime of shoplifting in most states. Hiding the item, either in or outside of the retailer is often enough. The act of hiding the merchandise is often enough in many states to meet the element of intent.

Shoplifting can also be charged if someone changes the price tags for a cheaper price or puts the merchandise in a container to keep from having to pay full price or even part of the price.

In many states, employees are allowed to detain those believed to have shoplifted until law enforcement arrives. Because there are laws that allow employees to do so, it protects the retailers from lawsuits that claim false arrest or false imprisonment. The store employees, though, must not detain someone for a long period of time, without probable cause to believe the crime was committed, or hold someone in a manner considered unreasonable.

Most states charge shoplifting as a misdemeanor, but there are a few that see it as an infraction. The value of the item that was allegedly taken is what will determine the severity of the charge as well as the severity of the possible penalties.

If you are facing a shoplifting charge, don't simply think it is no big deal. A theft charge can have a significant impact on your life, including restricting where you can work or live. An experienced New Jersey defense attorney can help you learn about your options.

Source: FindLaw, "Shoplifting," accessed April 29, 2016

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