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Defending Juvenile Theft Charges in New Jersey


Has your child been charged with juvenile theft? This can be a scary time filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Calm those fears by contacting a criminal defense attorney to defend your case. An experienced attorney can help mitigate the penalties associated with a theft conviction – which can mean the difference between receiving a “slap on the wrist” and serious jail time.
A juvenile theft conviction – even for a minor infraction – can lead to serious consequences later in your child's future, including limited career options and more. Therefore, retaining an experienced attorney is the first step in protecting your child's future. The criminal defense attorneys at Villani and DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey possess the skills and knowledge to properly defend any minor accused of theft.

Definition of Theft Under New Jersey Law

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a), “A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises control over movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof”. The blanket term “theft” includes crimes such as:

  • Receiving stolen property
  • Joy riding in a stolen car
  • Stealing services (such as cable or telephone)
  • Using bad checks

In New Jersey, shoplifting is considered a separate offense from theft and is covered under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11. Shoplifting includes crimes such as:

  • Taking merchandise from a store
  • Hiding merchandise
  • Changing a price tag

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove that the accused committed these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.

New Jersey Juvenile Theft Penalties

A minor charged with theft faces probation, community service programs or even time in a juvenile detention center. Penalties depend on the value of the stolen property, the number of previous offenses, and the specifics of the case. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2, a juvenile charged with theft of property totaling over $75,000 faces up to three years of detention. Theft of property totaling less than $75,000, but over $500, can include a sentence of up to two years of detention; while theft of property totaling less than $500, but more than $200, can mean up to one year of detention. For a minimal theft totaling less than $200, a minor can still face up to six months detention. Even six months of detention is a long time for a minor – who may miss out on a good amount of schooling or employment opportunities.
Additional penalties exist for automobile theft. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1, auto theft can result in a suspension of driving privileges – up to one year for a first offense and up to ten years for a third offense. The suspension does not begin until the minor turns 17 and would otherwise be able to obtain a driver's license. Auto theft also exposes minors to the more severe penalties of criminal court, as a prosecutor can move the case up to criminal court, according to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26. Even if you or your child simply rides in a vehicle without the owner's consent – also known as joy riding – you may still be charged with auto theft and face these serious penalties. New Jersey courts do not take auto theft cases lightly.

Defending New Jersey Juvenile Theft Charges

To best defend a New Jersey juvenile theft charge, it is essential to retain a knowledgeable juvenile defense attorney who can help you take the appropriate steps throughout your case. Pleading guilty to a juvenile theft charge may not always be the best course of action. However, prosecutors may allow a plea deal for theft cases in New Jersey, especially if it is a first offense. In a plea deal, the prosecution charges the defendant with a reduced offense in exchange for a guilty plea. In certain cases, this may allow your charge to be dropped down to avoid the harsher sentence of a more serious theft crime. An attorney can help you decide the best course of action based on the specifics of your individual case.
A knowledgeable juvenile defense attorney you can help you navigate the municipal court system to best protect your future. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca have many years of experience with the courts in Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey.

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