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Shoplifting - Changes In Substantive Law

merchandise intent merchant deprive

Most states have responded to the substantive and procedural problems by enacting special shoplifting statutes (Comment, 1973a, pp. 312–314). The substantive difficulty of proving fraudulent intent and the wrongfulness of the taking of possession is sometimes resolved by a provision making concealment of merchandise or similar acts criminal. Thus, the New Jersey code of criminal procedure (N.J. Stat. Ann. tit. 2C: 20–11 (1999)) defines shoplifting to include purposely concealing merchandise offered for sale with the intention of depriving the merchant of such merchandise without paying for it. The New Jersey code also defines other essentially preparatory acts as shoplifting when done with the requisite intent: altering or removing any label or price tag, or transferring merchandise from the container in which it is displayed to any other container. Such conduct indicates an intent to deprive and constitutes an exercise of wrongful dominion over the merchant's property even though the taker has not yet left the merchant's premises or the area in which it would be appropriate to pay for the goods. Indeed, the statutes of a number of states recognize a presumption of intent to deprive from concealment of merchandise.

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