27 Nov 23

The Penalties for Theft Crimes in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm

Theft Crimes in New Jersey

Theft crimes are taken pretty seriously in New Jersey. If you’ve been accused of theft, you could be facing fines, probation, community service, counseling, loss of driving privileges, or even jail time. The specific penalties depend on a bunch of factors – the type of theft, the value of what was stolen, your criminal record, etc. It can get confusing pretty quick, so let’s break it down.

What Counts as Theft in New Jersey

There’s a bunch of offenses that fall under the umbrella of “theft” in NJ:

  • Shoplifting – nabbing merchandise from a store without paying
  • Employee theft – stealing money, items, data, etc. from your workplace
  • Theft by deception – using tricks or lies to get someone’s property
  • Receiving stolen property – acquiring goods you know were stolen
  • Burglary – entering a structure illegally to commit a crime, like theft
  • Car theft – stealing a motor vehicle
  • Identity theft – using someone else’s personal/financial information

The charges and penalties vary based on the details, as we’ll explain next.

Factors that Determine Theft Penalties

If you’re charged with any type of theft offense in New Jersey, here’s some of the stuff that’ll impact how much trouble you’re in:

  • Value of stolen property
    • Under $500 – Usually a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor)
    • $500 – $75,000 – Third or second degree crime (felony)
    • Over $75,000 – First degree crime (felony)
  • The more valuable the item(s) stolen, the harsher the punishment.
  • Defendant’s criminal record – If you already have a theft conviction on your record, subsequent offenses will be taken more seriously. You’ll face stiffer penalties as a repeat offender.
  • Type of property stolen – Swiping someone’s car or identity can result in worse consequences than shoplifting. The nature of the stolen property matters.
  • Other factors – Whether the theft involved violence or weapons, the vulnerability of the victim (elderly, disabled, etc.), or breach of a position of trust (theft by an employee or caregiver) can also impact sentencing.

Penalties for Different Theft Crimes

Okay, let’s get specific. Here’s a quick rundown of potential penalties for some common theft offenses in New Jersey:

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Shoplifting (Under $500)

Shoplifting low-value merchandise is usually charged as a disorderly persons offense. Possible penalties include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Probation
  • Community service

Juveniles may be ordered into a diversionary program instead of jail time.

Employee Theft ($500-$75,000)

Stealing money or property from an employer is often charged as a third or second degree crime in NJ. Penalties can include:

  • 3-5 years in prison (third degree)
  • 5-10 years in prison (second degree)
  • Fines up to $150,000
  • Restitution

Fiduciaries (those in positions of trust, like accountants) face additional fines.

Burglary ($500-$75,000)

Like employee theft, first-time burglary charges usually fall under second or third degree crimes. Potential penalties include:

  • 3-5 years in prison (third degree)
  • 5-10 years in prison (second degree)
  • Fines up to $150,000
  • Restitution

Car Theft (Over $75,000)

Because vehicles are generally valued at over $75,000, car theft typically falls under first degree charges. Penalties can include:

  • 10-20 years in prison
  • Fines up to $200,000
  • Restitution

Identity Theft

ID theft penalties vary widely based on specifics, but commonly include:

  • Fines and restitution
  • 6 months to 10 years in prison
  • Probation

Victims can also sue offenders civilly for damages.

Defenses Against Theft Charges

If you’ve been accused of theft in New Jersey, don’t panic. There may be defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to get the charges lowered or dismissed. Some common theft defenses include:

  • You didn’t actually steal anything – Perhaps there was confusion and you accidentally walked out without paying. Or employees forgot items were paid for already. Mistake of fact may apply.
  • Lack of criminal intent – The prosecution must prove you knowingly and purposefully committed theft. If intent can’t be established, you may not be guilty.
  • False accusations – Dishonest store clerks, police, etc. may wrongly accuse innocent people of theft. Without solid evidence, the case could get thrown out.
  • Mental illness – If a mental health condition kept you from understanding your actions or controlling behavior, you may have a psychiatric defense.

The bottom line is don’t assume you’ll be convicted just because you were charged. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly analyze the evidence and identify defenses to build the strongest case possible on your behalf.

Finding a NJ Theft Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love has been arrested for theft in New Jersey, now is the time to act. The sooner you involve a skilled criminal defense attorney, the better. Look for a lawyer with extensive experience fighting theft charges in your area. They’ll know all the local judges, prosecutors, and court procedures to maximize the odds of a favorable outcome.

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Getting charged with a crime is scary. But with an experienced attorney guiding you through the chaos, you don’t have to face it alone. There’s still hope. So take a deep breath, and start searching for legal representation you can trust. Everything’s going to be okay