Our Approach to Shoplifting Cases
We have observed that most people who find themselves in the precarious position of being accused of shoplifting have never before been exposed in any way to the criminal justice system. Most of our firm’s clients in shoplifting cases are individuals who have no prior criminal record and therefore may feel particularly anxious about what their immediate future will bring. In addition, most clients express a degree of apprehension concerning what effects a shoplifting conviction may have on their future plans and ambitions in life, particularly any adverse effects on their employability and/or ability to obtain or hold a professional license. We therefore immediately sit down with a new client to establish a dialog to educate them on the entire process, answer their questions and address all of their concerns.
Our approach to the legal defense of a charge of shoplifting in a particular case begins to take shape at our very first client meeting. As it is rare for any person convicted of shoplifting in New Jersey as a first time offender to receive any period of incarceration, our initial concern is to advise the client that in most cases the primary goal in their legal defense will be protecting their record. Once we have addressed the understandable fears and concerns of our client, our focus then shifts to the individualized facts involved in their case.
Among the initial documents filed with the court and served upon the Prosecutor in a shoplifting case is a Demand for Discovery. Discovery in a shoplifting case generally consists of copies of all incident reports, arrest reports, witness statements, photographs, video recordings and access to all physical evidence involved in the case. The Discovery is typically received in our office within about 2 weeks after our filing of the Demand for Discovery. After a careful review the Discovery and subsequent discussions with our client regarding the factual details of the incident, we complete an evaluation of each of the strengths and weaknesses of the particular case. This allows us to formulate the individualized approach that we will take in the case when we go to court with our client. It is imperative that our client understand the specific proof issues in their case, as the most important analysis in the case concerns that which we anticipate the Prosecutor will or will not be able to prove in the event of a trial. We are always on the watch for defense issues, either legal or factual in nature, that may prevent the Prosecutor from being able to “prove his case” to the extent necessary to sustain a conviction.
While it does become advisable and occasionally unavoidable for some shoplifting cases to proceed to trial in municipal court, it is possible for a case to be resolved pretrial by way of a negotiated disposition. Many times an agreement is reached among the attorney, the Prosecutor and the complaining witness whereby the shoplifting charge is reduced to a “non-criminal” violation, such as a local ordinance violation, and sometimes the charge can be completely dismissed. If such an agreement can be accomplished and approved by the judge, the client’s record can be protected not only by avoiding a shoplifting conviction, but also by permitting the arrest records to be eligible for expungement sooner, if not immediately.
Handled properly, an arrest for shoplifting does not have to mean the end of one’s world. We provide the service of guiding our client through this difficult ordeal and working to achieve the most positive outcome possible. Our successful results in shoplifting cases have always come from hard work and having the experience to know the best strategy and approach to take in a particular case.