My question involves criminal law for the state of: New Jersey
A few days ago I was in a large chain thrift store with my child. She was running around, pulling items off the counter as I was paying. After the transaction was completed, I brought her over into another part of the store to let her play with some larger toys (they are in an open part of the store that is beyond the registers). I gathered my items up and put them in my shopping bag, not realizing that a smaller cosmetics bag had not been paid for. I let her play for about 5 minutes and then grabbed her to leave. I was stopped by 5 store employees, led to a small, open room in full view of the entire store, and interrogated. I admitted that the item was in my shopping bag, but tried to explain that didnt mean to put an unpaid item in my bag...I was simply being careless and not paying attention. They said that 3 managers had seen "what I did" and were waiting for me to do it. What's worse is that when they opened the cosmetics bag up, a scarf that I also intended to buy was inside...my 3 year old had been stuffing things in the bag and again, I wasn't paying attention...there was no intention here to steal anything...seriously just a matter of a mom being preoccupied and not paying enough attention to her surroundings.
Well, they asked for my ID and I didn't have my license so I gave them my passport. The manager threatened to call the cops because I didn't have my license with me. Every time I tried to explain myself, she told me she was going to call the cops. She took my picture and told me I was banned for life from all branches of the store. She said she was emailing my picture to all the other managers (all up and down the east coast).
I am a regular at all of the NJ locations. I run a resale business and get a lot of stock. Doesn't matter - I"m sure most people on this site won't believe that I didn't intend to steal the item. Fine, I'm banned, whatever...but I'm particularly scared about what the manager said as she was parading me through the store on the way out. She said she has my name and address and if she feels like it she's going to call DYFS and have my child taken away because I committed a crime with her there. She said she hadn't decided, but she's going to think about it. I'm literally beside myself. I know kids get taken away from their parents all the time for lesser reasons, and that the burden of proof is on me to show that I'm a good mother.
BTW, the grand total of the items I'm accused of stealing was less than $10.
I'd really appreciate some advice.