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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27752
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My wife was caught shoplifting from lord and Taylor in NJ,

Customer Question

My wife was caught shoplifting from lord and Taylor in NJ, it was 4 peaces of costume jewelery with a total value of $130.She was arrested by police taken fingerprints,photographed and was asked to attend the Municipal court. I consulted a criminal attorney and asked his help to deal this case.This is her first offense.They mentioned in the compaint that "This charge constitutes a disorderly persons offense" and violation of N.J.S. 2C:20-11B(2).
We had a court date yesterday and we went there. Our lawyer also has come. But nobody has come from Store and the court has not received any videos from Store. My lawyer said why don't you plea guilty, you don't need to come again and again because nobody has turned up from store. We asked my lawyer that if we plea guilty why did we I hire you for this. And he replied that you have done the mistake (Shop lifting) and if the video shows clearly then you have to face lot many consequences (like jail). Lawyer said we are there to ask judge that don't give prison to the victim and try to reduce penalty. We said we don't care about penalty and we asked him think about how to reduce the case. We totally scared about his words. My lawyer initially (When we paid his fees around $3000) promised he will take care of all these, but finally asking us to go for guilty. Finally we told our lawyer to ask Judge that dismiss the case because nobody has turned up from store. Judge postponed this case for giving second chance to the store. Please suggest me what should I do at this Situation and Please let me know what would be the prosecution when we plea guilty. Is the record would be there forever and what about immigration like Renewal of ViSA and crossing country and come back. Can we contact the store (Lord & Taylor) by any chance and pay 3, 4 times of recovery amount to dismiss the case? We got a letter from law office (who belongs to the lord & Taylor store) and saying that Pay ($150) in satisfaction of this civil claim. Shall we really need to pay this? If we pay shall it affects it on judgment.Please suggest us.
shall we have any problem at port of entry while coming back to US again even the case is dismissed or not? any problems to get Green Card?
Thanks again for giving valuable answers.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

It appears you are already working with an expert on this. Are you looking for another opinion?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks for the reply,
Yes, We are looking for another opinion....
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for your reply. I am sorry for the delay. I stepped away from my computer.

New Jersey's penal laws are a bit different that those of other states, because they don't call them misdemeanors and felonies the way most other states do. Instead, they have crimes in various degrees and they have disorderly person's offenses.

How a shoplifting case gets charged in NJ has to do with the value of the property that was allegedly taken. When the value is under $200 dollars, it would be a disorderly person's offense. A disorderly person's offense has a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and or a fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, there's a mandatory amount of community service as part of any plea.

A disorderly person's offense is NOT considered a crime in New Jersey but an infraction (a petty offense). That is, it is NOT the equivalent of what another state would call a misdemeanor. New Jersey law specifically states:

"Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses are petty offenses and are not crimes within the meaning of the Constitution of this State. There shall be no right to indictment by a grand jury nor any right to trial by jury on such offenses. Conviction of such offenses shall not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a crime."

However, if your wife were to take a plea here, it would turn up on a criminal background check and for certain purposes, it could count as a conviction. If your wife is not a citizen, and she took a plea here, she would have to disclose this offense to USCIS, because they would be able to see this offense anyway and if she left it out of an application, she could get in serious trouble. However if she did correctly admit to having the conviction for a disorderly person's offense, while USCIS might wish to know more about it, it is not serious enough to make her inadmissible or to subject her to deportation, as long as she does not continue to commit other criminal acts.

If she takes a plea it would not stay on her record forever. In New Jersey a disorderly person offense can be expunged 5 years after the completion of the sentence. However, government agencies can always see what others cannot when it comes to background checks. Even if this gets erased as far as a regular employer would be concerned it would always be something that USCIS could see and always be something that she would have to disclose to USCIS as I already mentioned.

All of this is by way of saying that yes, she can take a plea if she wants and it can't hurt her green card, etc. but if the store is not going to come in and prosecute and the case can eventually be dismissed, that would certainly be better than any kind of a conviction.

The law will allow the store more than one chance to come in and show an interest in prosecuting, just like they did. If they repeatedly fail to appear your lawyer can move to dismiss the charges and the judge will eventually do so.

Shoplifting can be prosecuted on both a criminal and a civil level. A store does not have to choose to go forward as a crime or as a civil fine. They can do both. The civil penalties are there to help defray the cost of the store's security system and theft insurance. The criminal penalties are to punish the wrongdoer for the offense.

You would not want to call the store and offer to pay the fine if they don't prosecute. That would be improper, since the case has already been filed in municipal court and it could get your wife in worse trouble if the store reported that to the state prosecutor. Besides, as I have just indicated, the store is entitled to both civil and criminal remedies if it so chooses.

If you have already been contacted about paying a civil penalty, yes it should be paid. There are those who would say that a store is never going to come after you in civil court for a small amount of money, and they may be right. But again, your wife is not a citizen, so what she does or doesn't do in a situation like this would get looked at more critically as evidence of her character than for someone who is a citizen of the US.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks a lot for your reply.
Actually I did mistake. I was shopping that day with my 2 kids and stayed maximum 30 or 40 minutes I took 2, 3 items explained everything to my lawyer. Initially he told me videos are not clear always we can prove the case 95% win chance promised he will take care of all these. Initially he told video tape is $450 not possible to see before court time the tape we can see in the court only.
But finally in the court asking us to go for guilty.
And he said that you have done the mistake (Shop lifting) and if the video shows clearly then you have to face lot many consequences (like jail).
My question is when I said not guilty if the video shows clearly what are the most consequences are facing in my case. Now my lawyer said pay $450 we can see the tape now then decide guilty or not guilty. I am very scared and confused. Can you suggest me Can I hire another lawyer? Sorry little language problem.
Thanks for the help.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.



I will try to be more clear for you. What you did was wrong. But in NJ it is not a crime. It is just a "disorderly person's arrest."


Yes, if you go to trial and lose the case you can go to jail for up to 6 months. But you probably will not want to go to trial. If you don't go to trial you should not have to worry about jail.


If you plead "guilty" you will get probation. You can plead guilty and get probation on the next date if you want. Or you can wait and see what's on the video before deciding. On a case like this, I'm sure that you should still be able to get probation even after seeing the video. The longer your case lasts, however, the more you will have to pay your lawyer for his time.


Your lawyer is giving you correct information, so don't be scared about that.


If you finish probation and don't get arrested again, this case will not cause a problem with USCIS, so long as you tell them honestly that you got this conviction.

Edited by FranL on 1/26/2011 at 3:27 PM EST
Zoey_ JD and 3 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Fran,

My wife did the same mistake like shoplifting. This is her 2nd mistake. We are looking for your suggestion that what would be the punishment for 2nd time shoplifting. She is totally upset (fedup) right now. I don't know why she did the same mistake again.She has the court date in 10days. They mentioned in the letter that " In violation of N.J.S 2C:20-11.B.(2). A crime of the 4th degree "and the concelling amount is $269. Please help us what should we do now?

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

Last time around your wife was faciing a disorderly persons offense, which NJ considers as something less than a crime. USCIS would probably see it more harshly, but it falls under an exception to deportable and inadmissible offenses, and had she stayed out of further trouble, it should not present a problem.

This time around, the stakes go up. Her offense is a crime of the fourth degree and it carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail. This would be a crime of moral turpitude and could cause her problems with her status if she pleads guilty to this charge. She needs an Immigration lawyer and she needs to have this matter bargained down to something that will allow her to safely remain here. She should not attempt to resolve this in any way before she speaks to one.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Fran,

Thanks for the reply... Could you please suggest any lawers (including Immigration lawyer) in New Jersey Area.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

JustAnswer does not allow experts to referccustomer to specific a attorney or law firm. But if you don't know where to start looking for a good local criminal and/or immigration lawyer, you should try the New Jersey Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. They prescreen their lawyers, and they guarantee to introduce their customers to a member of the NJ Bar in good professional standing. The referral fee is $50 and includes a free half hour consultation with the lawyer. You would be under no obligation to hire the lawyer after the consultation, unless of course you wanted to.

You might be able to find an Immigration lawyer who also practices criminal law through them. Otherwise, I would start with the immigration lawyer and try to see him before your wife's court date. He may be able to tell you what would be a safe plea. Then you'd only need to hire a criminal lawyer who could hopefully negotiate that for your wife.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Franls,
If I Hire Lawyer.How can i help me mom.How can the lawyer proof.I did very big mistake.Last time I hired a Lawyer.But lawyer said video are very clear you accept gilty.Then I accept gilty I pay penality and community work.This time very dispressed like I dead almost.Please help me mom.The immigration lawyer will come court.Is possiable to If i hire immigration lawyer with out criminal lawyer?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

There are many lawyers who handle Immigration matters and also have experience with criminal cases. The immigration aspect of your mother's problem is the most important part of her problem this time. Last time it was not.

She will probably be able to resolve her criminal case without having to go to jail. But some pleas could possibly make her deportable or inadmissible. By inadmissible I mean that if she leaves the country, they will not let her back in.

Contact the bar association number that I gave you and see if they can find you an immigration attorney in your area who also has a criminal practice.

And good luck!
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Franl,
I tryed New Jersey Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
But they said they have only criminal or immegration Lawyers phone numbers only.
They don't have who exeperience criminal & immegration Lawyers imformation.
Can you tell me any lawyer have experience with criminal & immegration cases in NJ.
I found one lawyer in internet LEE & GARASIA ,LLC:Edison and
lawyer Gary T. Jodha Princeton Junction, NJ.Please suggest mom.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

Legal Experts here are unable to make direct referrals to any attorney. That is a rule of this site. We can only give you the name of services who can make referrals, which I have done. In any case, as I am not from your state, I have no personal knowledge about either of the two attorneys whose names you have mentioned.

If you have to choose between an immigration lawyer and a criminal lawyer, I think you should contact an immigration lawyer first, as that would be the potentially more serious problem. He can tell you what it's safe for her to do in order to dispose of this case without harming her status.

You could also consider a small law firm where there are multiple attorneys but all one firm and who would be able to can handle both issues.