Defending NJ NJ 2C:20-3. Theft.
After you read the following NJ Criminal Statute (Theft) you may decide that you need the help of a lawyer, or need a legal interpretation of how this statute applies to your case. The firm of Villani & DeLuca has experienced criminal lawyers with over 20 years of experience, including a former municipal prosecutor. Call the number above for a free 24×7 phone consultation.
Summary of Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition
This statute covers general theft charges, i.e., those offenses not covered under specific theft statutes such as shoplifting, auto, or computer theft. There are two sections of this statute: 2C:20-3(a), Theft of Movable Property and 2C:20-3(b), Theft of Immovable Property. The vast term “movable property” means anything of value, and can include both tangible items and intangible personal property, trade secrets, contract rights, interests in or claims to wealth, financial instruments, information, and original computer software as well as copies. “Immovable property” is all other property, but is limited to the actual transfer of interest in the immovable property. Usually, immovable property refers to land and includes all of the legal rights and privileges that are associated with ownership.
The State’s Burden of Proof for Theft in New Jersey
For a conviction for theft of movable property, the prosecutor must prove all three of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: that defendant knowingly took or unlawfully exercised control over movable property; that the movable property was property of another; and that defendant’s purpose was to deprive the other person of the movable property. The State need not prove that the property was carried out of the place in which it was kept, but only that it was moved or taken from its original location, or that defendant exercised unlawful control over it, whether or not he or she was able to actually move or remove the property.
Possible Defenses to Theft by Unlawful Taking
A good strategy to fight a theft charge under this statute is to negotiate with the prosecutor to downgrade the charge to a municipal ordinance violation. This will be more likely to happen with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
A person charged with theft could possibly have a valid defense if they can establish that they believed they had a valid claim to the property or that they believed they owned the property. However, a defendant would need to provide some type of evidence to support their claim. A different and viable defense may exist if a defendant is able to establish they had the intent to return the property at the time it was taken and actually could do so. It is fairly common to defend theft charges by claiming the property was just being “borrowed”.
In no case should a defendant plead guilty, but rather seek the representation of defense counsel, who will conduct vigorous discovery and prepare a solid defense. The firm of Villani & DeLuca has experienced criminal lawyers with over 100 years of combined experience, including a former municipal prosecutor. Call the number above for a free 24×7 phone consultation.
Penalties for a Theft Conviction in NJ
The value of the property unlawfully taken or controlled determines the degree of this criminal charge in New Jersey. A value of $75,000 or more is a second degree crime, a value between $500 and $75,000 is a third degree crime and, if the value is between $200 and $500, it’s a fourth degree crime. All of the above convictions carry possible jail time, and it is strongly advised to seek vigorous defense counsel. The criminal lawyers of Villani & DeLuca can discuss your charges with you and help determine a plan of action in defending your case. Call (732) 965-3350 today for a free, no obligation consultation.
NJ Statute: 2C:20-3. Theft by unlawful taking or disposition.
a. Movable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.
b. Immovable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully transfers any interest in immovable property of another with purpose to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto.
L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:20-3, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.
AKA: NJ Criminal Charge 2C:20-3, Violation 2C:20-3, Offense 2C:20-3
Disclaimer: A copy of this statute has been provided for your information. This wording was current from the NJ website lis.njleg.state.nj.us as of August 2012.