No, you cannot do a private settlement with a criminal matter. The criminal matter is between the State of New Jersey and your friends. Walmart is the alleged victim and they do not control what happens with the case. And in any case, most stores are eager to press charges against shoplifters.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11c(3), shoplifting merchandise that is worth more than $200 but less than $500 is a crime in the 4th degree, and carries a penalty of up to 18 months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $10,000, plus a mandatory period of community service, which is 10 days for a first offender.
Your friends with definitely want to consult an attorney. Pleading guilty, even if they are promised lenient sentences, will result in a criminal records, which could have very serious consequences down the road.
I have experience with these types of cases, and I would encourage your friends to schedule a 100% free consultation. My information is below.
This posting is just general legal INFORMATION and not legal ADVICE. Only your attorney can provide legal advice. If you would like actual advice about your particular case, please contact me for a consultation.
I believe someone involved in this matter has contacted my office. In any event, if the matter is in Woodbridge there are different approaches than if the case is in Linden. First, Woodbridge is Middlesex County and Linden is Union County. The case will be screened by the county prosecutor and likely returned to municipal court because the amount of the shoplifting is so low. There are possibilities to negotiate a plea is either vicinage but more likely in one than the other. Also one of the sites has a history of imposing jail on first offenders. I am not trying to scare you just stating past experience. I would strongly suggest you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with the Court where this case is to be heard. My office offers free consultations