What Do I Need to Know About NJ Theft Laws?

  • Criminal Defense

If you are being investigated for theft crimes, there are several ways the state of New Jersey could charge you. The law classifies theft depending on the kind of theft crime committed.

Theft is not a small charge and is commonly a criminal charge. You could end up with a criminal record, including jail time, high monetary fines, and mandatory community service. Those accused of theft-related crimes need the legal representation of a New Jersey criminal defense law firm.

A theft conviction can limit someone’s ability to obtain certain jobs, credit lines, among other benefits. Understand what the New Jersey law says about theft so that you can combat these charges and understand the process.

How Is Theft Defined by New Jersey Law?

Larceny or theft in New Jersey happens when a person deprives another of their property rights without using violence. Theft is a general word used to describe crimes like extortion, shoplifting, deception, and unlawful taking.

What’s The Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Embezzlement?

The difference between theft and robbery is that a robbery act is accompanied by threats of violence or use of violence. For instance, if someone pulls out a knife and demands cash from someone, he or she would be committing a robbery and not a common theft.

Embezzlement is also different from theft as the thief has the right to possess the property or funds.

What’s New Jersey’s Theft Laws?

You can be found guilty of theft if evidence shows that you unlawfully took or exercised control over someone else’s movable property including personal items, money, and unlawful transfer of interest.

New Jersey has a number of specific theft offenses:

  • Shoplifting
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Theft by extortion
  • Theft by deception
  • Theft of lost property, or theft of wrongly delivered property
  • Concealment of library material
  • Theft of services

Is Theft a Felony or Misdemeanor in New Jersey?

New Jersey doesn’t categorize theft crimes as felonies or misdemeanors. A theft crime in NJ can be categorized as an indictable offense (which are considered felonies elsewhere), or a disorderly person’s offense (which are considered misdemeanors elsewhere).

This unfamiliar classification could be a cause for confusion to many. But several factors will have to be considered before a theft crime is categorized as an indictable offense or a disorderly person’s offense.

What Factors Influence the Severity of a Criminal Charge

Theft charges can shift from a disorderly person’s offense to an indictable offense, as well as to indictable offense charges of varying degrees depending on various factors. They include:

  • The type of theft crime
  • Value of stolen items. If there are no aggravating factors, the stolen property’s value plays a large role when determining what charges to file against an offender.
    • Theft of less than $200 will be charged as a disorderly person’s offense (misdemeanor)
    • Theft of $200 to $500 is categorized as a fourth degree crime (felony)
    • Theft of property or services between $500 and $75,000 is categorized as a third degree crime (felony)
    • Theft of property valued at more than $75,000 is categorized as a second degree crime (felony)
  • Presence or absence of weapons during the theft
  • Whether the offender was a first-time offender

These factors will determine what theft charges one faces and the potential penalties if the individual is convicted. If facing theft charges, it is always critical to discuss your case with a skilled Toms River theft crimes lawyer to help you build a defense strategy to avoid a criminal conviction.

Aggravating Factors

Although the value of the illegally taken property forms the basis of what the prosecutors may charge you with, some situations could see the theft of a low-value item carrying heavy penalties. They are:

  • Theft of firearms
  • Theft of human remains is a crime of the second degree, while theft of a body by false documents or deception is a 1st degree crime
  • Theft of more than a kilogram of a controlled substance is a 2nd degree crime, regardless of its monetary value
  • Theft of service animals is a 3rd degree crime

What Are the Penalties for Theft in New Jersey?

The least severe theft crime is a disorderly person’s offense, which is similar to a misdemeanor, while a first degree theft crime is the most serious one.

  • A disorderly person’s offense, which is New Jersey’s misdemeanor offense charge, will attract up to six months in jail, in addition to potential fines of up to $1,000
  • Fourth degree theft (stolen property worth $200-$500) carries a jail term of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Third degree theft (stolen property worth $500-$75,000), or theft of a horse, firearm, boat, airplane, or domestic companion carries a jail term of up to five years and up to $15,000 in fines, or double the victim’s loss
  • Second degree theft: stolen property worth $75,000 or more, extortion, carry jail terms of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $150,000
  • First degree theft can attract up to 30 years in jail and a fine of up to $200,000

Are There Alternate Sentences for Theft Crimes?

If you don’t have a criminal record or history of theft, you may be eligible for rehabilitation programs. They are meant to give you a second chance without leaving you with a criminal record.

Your Toms River theft defense lawyer can negotiate for a New Jersey Pretrial Intervention Program, or a Conditional Dismissal.

A Legal Aid to Protect Your Freedom

Theft can be quite serious in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the complex laws in NJ don’t make this as straightforward as it should be, and you could miss details that could break or make your case. That’s why you need a criminal defense attorney in New Jersey if you were wrongly or correctly accused of such crimes.

Attorneys play a critical role in protecting your rights, giving legal advice, and evaluating your case to determine which could serve affirmative defense. Talk to an experienced theft lawyer in Toms River, NJ, to find out how best to resolve your case.

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