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What to do if I am accused of shoplifting by a Store Security Guard?

Store security guards who have probable cause to believe that you have willfully concealed unpurchased merchandise and he believes that he can recover that merchandise by taking you into custody, may take you into custody and detain you for a reasonable period of time.

  1.  99% of defendants accused of shoplifting that I see, hand the store the shoplifting case on a silver platter by giving a statement admitting to stealing the merchandise.  You have the right to remain silent.  You should exercise that right not flush it down the toilet.
  2. Do not sign anything.  The store might present a “sworn” admission statement and simply ask you to sign it.  Don’t.

What should you do if you are accused of shoplifting and sitting in that same security room?

You should be respectful and remain seated.  You should never try to leave or run away.  You should be courteous and request to speak with your attorney.

If they find the store merchandise on you, you will be transported to the local police station, be fingerprinted and either be release on your own recognizance (ROR) or a bail will be set by the Judge, depending on the dollar amount of the items you took.

What Happens Next?

The local police will provide you with some paperword..basically a white and green piece of paper called a summons.  This will list the charge of shoplifting and the degree (2nd, 3rd, 4th or disorderly persons).

I was the Public Defender in Paramus for several years.  Paramus has a lot of malls and a lot of shoplifting.  From that experience, I can tell you that even if your shoplifting offense is 3rd or 4th degree, it will be removed from the County Prosecutor and sent back down to the Municipal Court, which is a very positive thing for your case.

The summons you received from the local police will have a court date on it for you to appear in the local municipal court. If the offense is anything other than a disorderly person’s offense, this appearance is called your arraignment.  The Judge will advise you of several rights and have you report to an intake clerk at the Superior Court within 48 hours and you are free to leave.

If your shoplifting offense is a disorderly persons offense (either the merchandise is under $200 or the County Prosecutor has remanded it (sent it) back to the Municipal Court) then you will appear in the Municipal Court on a “First Appearance”.  The Judge will ask you how you are pleading to the shoplifting charge (guilty or not guilty) and whether you want to hire an attorney.

By Ronald P. Mondello