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What is the punishment for credit card theft in New Jersey?

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized


Punishment for Credit Card Theft in New Jersey

If you’ve been charged with credit card theft in New Jersey, you’re probably wondering what kind of punishment you might be facing. Credit card theft charges can range from third-degree to fourth-degree crimes, with penalties ranging from probation to several years in prison. This article will break down the specific laws and potential sentences for different types of credit card theft crimes in NJ.

Credit Card Theft Laws in New Jersey

The main law covering credit card theft in New Jersey is N.J.S.A. 2C:21-6. This law identifies six different types of credit card theft:

  • Taking a credit card without the cardholder’s consent
  • Receiving a lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered credit card
  • Selling or buying a credit card from someone other than the issuer (the credit card company)
  • Obtaining a credit card to secure a debt
  • Falsely making, counterfeiting or modifying a credit card
  • Unauthorized signing of a credit card

The first three types of credit card theft are the most common. Essentially, New Jersey law considers any credit card obtained from someone other than the issuing credit card company to be stolen. Even if you didn’t physically take the card, buying or selling a stolen card is illegal.

Penalties for Credit Card Theft in New Jersey

Credit card theft charges are indictable offenses in New Jersey, meaning they are equivalent to felonies in other states. The specific degree of the offense and penalty depends on the circumstances:

Fourth-Degree Credit Card Theft

This is generally for first-time offenders or less serious cases involving smaller monetary amounts. Fourth-degree credit card theft is punishable by:

  • Up to 18 months in jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Probation for up to 5 years

Third-Degree Credit Card Theft

More serious cases involving larger monetary amounts, repeat offenders, or victims over age 60 or disabled are usually charged as third-degree offenses. Third-degree credit card theft can be punished by:

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  • 3-5 years in New Jersey State Prison
  • Up to $15,000 in fines
  • Probation for up to 5 years

In addition to jail time, fines, and probation, the court may order restitution to any victims as part of the sentence.

Aggravating Factors

There are certain aggravating factors that could potentially increase the degree of the offense and the punishment if they apply in your case:

  • Prior conviction for credit card theft or fraud
  • Amount involved exceeds $500
  • Victim is over age 60 or disabled
  • Crime involved breach of public trust (i.e. committed by a public official)
  • Organized scheme involving multiple perpetrators

So for example, a first-time offense involving a small amount could be a fourth-degree crime. But a repeat offense involving over $500 stolen from an elderly victim would likely be bumped up to a third-degree charge.

Defenses Against Credit Card Theft

There are several legal defenses that a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney may be able to argue to fight credit card theft charges, such as:

  • Lack of criminal intent – If you received or used a credit card without knowing it was stolen, you may be able to argue you lacked criminal intent.
  • Misidentification – Mistaken identity is possible if the evidence against you is weak.
  • Illegal search – If evidence was obtained through an unconstitutional search, it may be excluded.
  • Entrapment – Undercover cops cannot induce you to commit a crime you otherwise wouldn’t.

An experienced lawyer will thoroughly examine the evidence against you and advise you on the best defense strategy for your specific circumstances.

Plea Bargaining Credit Card Theft Charges

Many New Jersey credit card theft cases end up being resolved through plea bargaining rather than going to trial. In a plea bargain, you plead guilty to the charges in return for an agreed upon, lesser sentence. The prosecutor may agree to:

  • Reduce the degree of the charges (fourth vs third degree)
  • Recommend a lighter jail sentence
  • Allow a non-custodial sentence (probation vs jail)
  • Drop some of the charges entirely

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf to try to get the best possible plea deal. This can help reduce the penalties you are facing if the evidence against you is strong.

Expunging a Credit Card Theft Conviction

Many first-time non-violent offenders are able to have their criminal record expunged in New Jersey after completing their sentence. Expungement erases the conviction from public records so it won’t show up on background checks for jobs, housing, etc. Eligibility requirements include:

  • No prior criminal convictions
  • No pending criminal charges
  • Completed probation/parole at least 5 years ago
  • No additional convictions since the offense

If you meet the criteria, an experienced New Jersey expungement lawyer can guide you through the process of clearing your record.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Dealing with credit card theft charges is scary. But the outcome for your case depends heavily on having an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner. Be sure to choose a lawyer who:

  • Focuses specifically on NJ criminal defense cases
  • Has extensive experience defending credit card theft charges
  • Will thoroughly examine the evidence against you
  • Can effectively negotiate plea bargains
  • Will aggressively defend you in court if necessary

Don’t leave the fate of your case up to chance. Consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey credit card theft lawyer as soon as possible after being charged. An expert attorney can advise you of all your options and fight to achieve the most favorable resolution.

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