Being charged with theft can result in a wide range of long-lasting consequences. Not only does it lead to painful emotions such as embarrassment and disappointment, but also leads to an uncertain future. These include prison or jail, fines, loss of jobs/careers and other opportunities, and, of course, damage to one's reputation. If you have been arrested or are under investigation for theft in Ocean County or Monmouth County, it is critical you make every effort to contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense and theft attorney in NJ to assist you right away.
Talk to Villani & DeLuca P.C. to Get the Representation You Need
With over 100 years combined experience among our eight attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C., we have represented individuals throughout the entire array of legal matters, including theft and identity theft. Since no two cases are alike, we will spend the time to understand the facts and nuances in your case to assist you with the strongest defense. Whether this is your first theft charge or if you have prior convictions on your record, we are here to help you get the best results possible in your criminal case. Carmine R. Villani, Esq., founding partner of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., is a former Municipal Prosecutor and is an experienced New Jersey criminal defense and theft lawyer. Mr. Villani represents all clients with superior criminal defense representation in Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Theft Defined Under the New Jersey Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3a)
New Jersey criminal statutes define theft as the “unlawful taking” or “exercising of control” over someone else's property. The offender must act with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.
New Jersey laws also identify a number of specific types of theft offenses. Here's a list of a few (along with citations to the relevant New Jersey code section):
- Theft by deception (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4)
- Theft by extortion (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5)
- Theft of lost property, or property that has been delivered by mistake (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-6)
- Receiving stolen property (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7)
- Theft of services (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-8)
- Shoplifting (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11)
- Concealment of library material (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-13)
- Writing bad checks (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5)
- Credit card fraud (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-6)
New Jersey Theft Offenses and Penalties
New Jersey categorizes most theft offenses according to the value of the property involved in the offense. The different categories of theft in New Jersey are listed below along with the penalties that might come after a conviction at each level.
Theft as a Disorderly Persons Offense (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(b)(4) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3)
In New Jersey, theft is considered a “disorderly persons offense” if the value of the property involved in the theft is less than $200. This level of theft, or shoplifting, is also referred to as petty theft. If the merchandise is discovered on your person, authorities will assume that you have been shoplifting.
Offenses included under shoplifting include tampering with price tags or under charging for an item. Though the value of this offense may seem to be small, it is important to be aware what the penalties are, including imprisonment up to six months, and/or a fine up to $1,000 (or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher). (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3 and N.J.S.A. 2C:43-8)
Theft as a Crime of the Fourth Degree (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(b)(3) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3.)
In New Jersey, theft constitutes a “crime of the fourth degree” if the value of the property involved is at least $200 but not more than $500.
Punishment for a “crime of the fourth degree” includes imprisonment up to 18 months and/or a fine up to $10,000 (or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher). (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3 and N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.)
Theft as a Crime of the Third Degree (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(b)(2), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3.)
In New Jersey, theft constitutes a “crime of the third degree” if:
- the value of the property or services involved is more than $500 but less than $75,000
- the stolen property is a firearm, motor vehicle, vessel, boat, horse, domestic companion animal or airplane
- the property is a controlled dangerous substance in an amount less than one kilogram, or with a value of less than $75,000
- the property is taken from the person of the victim
- the property is taken in breach of an obligation by a person acting as a fiduciary
- the property is taken by threat that does not rise to the level of extortion
- the property is a public instrument, writing, or record
- the property is a blank New Jersey prescription form
- the property is an access device
- the property is anhydrous ammonia and is intended to be used to manufacture methamphetamine
After a conviction for theft as a crime of the third degree in New Jersey, an offender faces imprisonment from three to five years, and/or a fine up to $15,000 (or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher). (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3 and N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6)
Theft as a Crime of the Second Degree (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(b)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3)
In New Jersey, theft constitutes a “crime of the second degree” if any of the following conditions exist:
- the value of the property or services involved is $75,000 or more
- the property is taken by extortion
- the property is a controlled dangerous substance in excess of one kilogram
- the property is human remains
After conviction of theft of the second degree in New Jersey, punishment will include imprisonment for a term from five to 10 years, and/or a fine up to $150,000 (or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher). (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3 and N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6)
Motor Vehicle Theft (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.2)
Auto theft occurs when a car is taken with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle. The intent is what separates motor vehicle theft from joyriding. It is also different from carjacking because carjacking requires that force be used against the owner when the vehicle is stolen. There is no force in motor vehicle theft.
A person who steals a motor vehicle must pay a $500 penalty and will be subject to a driver's license suspension for one year. For a second offense involving theft of a motor vehicle, a person must pay a penalty of $750 and a driver's license suspension of two years. For a third or subsequent offense, the penalty is $1,000 and a driver's license suspension of ten years. Additionally, if the market value of the motor vehicle at the time of the theft is more than $7,500 and it is not recovered, the court may order the offender to pay a fine in that higher amount.
Fight Criminal Charges with New Jersey's Skilled Theft Lawyers
When you need a criminal defense lawyer for theft charges, you can't afford to waste time before seeking representation to defend yourself and your rights in court; your choice of legal counsel is important. If you or a family member have been charged with, or are being investigated for a criminal offense contact Partner, Carmine R. Villani, Esq. or Associate, Timothy L. Horn, Esq. at (732) 709-7757 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. A NJ theft lawyer at Villani & DeLuca can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (732) 709-7757.