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xavierjd, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 3400
Experience:  Over 20 yrs experience in prosecution and defense work
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I accidently forgot to check my $6.00 mascara at the checkout.

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I accidently forgot to check my $6.00 mascara at the checkout. I was stopped by security and asked to sign two papers justifying my act. I was very cooperative and explained that I was under duress,which is true. This is a first time for me and the security guard was very nice about it. However, he still has to send the 2 papers to his boss. This is a first time for me and it will be the last time. Will I be in danger of losing or having my Pension and Social Security garnished for this? What is the penalty for this in New Jersey. Can I get around this? Frances in N.J.

xavierjd :

Thanks for using It will be my pleasure to assist you today.


Did the papers that you were given that you signed "justifying your act" indicate that you ADMITTED to taking the mascara?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I don't know, I didn't have my glasses. However, he said it was a statement that I did admit to having the item on my possession. I did not think it was that serious because he did not call for the police. He was friendly and willing to let me go. The only ID I gave him was my NJ drivers license.


Thanks for the information.

I want to look up a couple of things for you. I will be back with an answer for you asap.

Thanks for your patience.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I really am interested in knowing if my pension and social security benefits will be at risk or affected. Also , how could I get around not paying a fine or having a crimminal record from this. It was all an accident?


You are NOT in danger of losing your pension or Social Security. Moreover, even if you are charged with "shoplifting" neither your social security or pension would be garnished.

Hopefully, you will not even be charged with "shoplifting." However, if you are charged, shoplifting is a disorderly persons offense if the full retail Offense: value of the merchandise was less than $200.00.N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11c(4). A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed six months (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-8), a fine not to exceed $1,000 or both (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3c).

Moreover, if you are charged and were to be convicted, a first offender must perform 10 days of community service.

The above penalties are the MAXIMUM allowed by law. That doesn't mean that the judge will impose the maximum penalties upon you even if you are convicted. Most likely, in your case, even if you were convicted, it is doubtful that the judge would impose the maximum penalties! And, because it is your first offense, it is extremely unlikely that you would go to jail.

Also, under New Jersey law, the store can demand a $150.00 civil penalty for taking the merchandise. The store may send you a letter indicating that you must pay the civil penalty. If you do not pay, then the store could sue you for the $150.00

Even if you were charged with shoplifting, the prosecutor would have to prove EACH AND EVERY element of the crime BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. That is a high burden.

The most common outcome for a first time shoplifting is for the charge to be downgraded to a municipal ordinance. Basically, if a person is convicted of a municipal ordinance, then it will not give you a criminal record. A municipal ordinance conviction will not show up on your criminal record. If the offense is downgraded, then the fines and costs are less and there won't be any jail time attached.

Mistakes happen all of the time, and many people may make a mistake or be multi-tasking or just may be momentarily absent minded. You may wish to contact an attorney who specializes in criminal law. An attorney may be able to intervene on your behalf, and offer the store a restitution settlement. Moreover, an attorney can assist you to avoid the embarrassment of having any criminal charges filed. Finally, an attorney can help you in any negotiations with the store or with the prosecutor.

Moreover, an attorney can work with you and and store owners to reach a civil compromise to avoid any shoplifting charges being filed. A successful negotiation with the store about a possible civil compromise may ultimately result in the shoplifting charges being dropped. In these type of cases, the charged person must pay for full restitution for the stolen merchandise, and the store will then decline to press the case.

And, if you are charged, an attorney may be able to assess the facts of your case. Because, there are rare cases when a shoplifting case can be even dismissed outright. First, a defendant can always file a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that shoplifting charge was a de minimis offense, and it must be dismissed under the exception under N.J.S.A. 2C:2 11. The de minimis rule provides for an outright dismissal of a shoplifting charge wherein the alleged conduct is too small and trivial to justify a full trial.

If it was all a big mistake, and the security guard sends his report along with the paperwork that you signed, to his boss, it is possible that NOTHING will happen. If the mascara wasn't taken, the store may just recognize it was a mistake and call it a day.

I've given you both the "worst case scenario" and the "best case scenario." But, it would, again, probably be in your best interest to contact an attorney in your area who specializes in criminal law.

Below is a link to the New Jersey Bar Association Attorney Referral page.

You may be able to have an initial consultation for free or at a minimal charge. You may wish to discuss your case with an attorney. S/he may be able to help you, if needed, and put your mind at ease.

I hope you find this information useful.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. If you are satisfied with my answer, please rate it as "excellent" or in another positive manner. That is the only way that I can get credit for answering the question.

Thank you for your business!

xavierjd and 2 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you


Thank you so much for the "excellent service" rating! It is greatly appreciated and I am glad that you found the information useful.

If you have future questions, you can specifically request me by name as the expert.

Thanks again,