How to Expunge a Shoplifting or Theft Case

Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes expunged off of criminal records. In 2011, New Jersey reported 128,269 theft offenses, which amounts to 354 offenses every 24 hours. Approximately half of these offenses were for property worth less than $200, falling under the definition of shoplifting (2011 Uniform Crime Report).

Property value less than $200 – Misdemeanor

Most New Jersey shoplifting cases involve merchandise worth less than $200, which is a misdemeanor (disorderly persons offense). (N.J.S. 2C:20-11). If found guilty, a person will most likely have to pay a fine or complete probation.

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Sometime, if it is your first offense, the prosecutor will reduce your charge to a municipal ordinance violation and you will only have to pay a fine. If this is the case, you can apply for an expungement 2 years after payment of the fine.

If your case was not downgraded and you were convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting, you must wait 3 or 5 years after completion of your sentence before applying for an expungement. If you have not other convictions on your record, you should be qualify for the 3 year waiting period with little trouble.

Alternatively, if your charges were dismissed for other reasons, you can expunge them right away.

Property value more than $200 – Felony

If the value of the property is worth more than $200, you may be charged with a felony (indictable offense). The greater the value of the property, the more severe the felony:

  • $200 to $500 – fourth degree
  • $500 to $75000 – third degrees
  • $75000 or more – second degree

If you are arrested for a third or fourth degree offense, the court may offer you a diversionary program called pretrial intervention (PTI). A diversionary program is an alternative to the traditional criminal justice process and usually involves some form of probation and/or community service. If you successfully complete PTI, the original charges against you are dismissed. However, your arrest record will still exist and be available to the public. You may expunge this arrest record 6 months after completion of the PTI program.

If you were not given a diversionary program and were convicted, you are unable to expunge your record until 5 or 10 years have passed since the completion of your sentence.

How to Expunge Shoplifting

Once the required waiting period is over, you are allowed to expunge your shoplifting crime by filing a petition with the superior court of the county you were charged in. The court will take 3-4 months to process the request. Almost all expungements for shoplifting charges are granted because these crimes are non-violent and relatively minor.