Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), shoplifting is defined as a “crime involving moral turpitude.”Under certain circumstances, a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude may result in deportation consequences.This article addresses those circumstances.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11, each the following constitute the offense of shoplifting:
- Taking possession of and carrying away merchandise with the intention of not paying:
- Concealing merchandise with the intention of not paying;
- Removing a price tag or label from merchandise with the intention of paying less than the full retail value;
- Moving merchandise from one container to another in order to pay less than the full retail price;
- Under-ringing an item in order to pay less than the full retail value; and
- Taking a shopping cart with the intention of depriving the retail establishment of that cart.
The disorderly persons offense of shoplifting carries a maximum term of six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00, in addition to other penalties.For a third or subsequent conviction, the offense carries a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.
Removal and deportation proceedings apply to individuals who are lawful permanent residents (LPR), or noncitizens that have been legally admitted into the United States to live or work permanently.If a LPR has no criminal history, one shoplifting conviction in municipal court will not result in deportation.This is because a LPR will only become deportable for one conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude if that offense is committed within five years after the LPR being admitted into the United States and if the LPR is sentenced to confinement for one year or more.Because a shoplifting conviction in municipal court can only result in a sentence of up to six months, deportation will not be triggered by one municipal shoplifting conviction.
If, however, a LRP has any prior convictions of crimes involving moral turpitude, a subsequent municipal shoplifting conviction will render the LPR deportable.This is because a LPR becomes deportable for two convictions of a crime of moral turpitude regardless of when the offenses were committed and regardless of the length of sentence imposed for each.
Therefore, a LPR will be rendered deportable for a municipal shoplifting conviction if they have previously been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.For this reason, it is extremely important if you are a noncitizen to consult with an attorney that understands the impact that a conviction may have on your immigration status.