Theft

New Jersey theft crimes are among the most serious cases. Police and prosecutors aggressively pursue convictions for theft crimes. Theft crimes encompass a broad range of criminal offenses, including misappropriating funds, stealing property or committing fraud.

The manner in which a theft crime is carried out, as well as whether it is violent or non-violent in nature, will often influence the way in which the case is prosecuted. Some theft crimes, such as robbery or burglary, are committed with force or violence.  Shoplifting, on the other hand, is carried out in a more subtle manner with the hopes of not even being noticed.  Fraud is yet another form of theft that involves deceit to carry out the offense.  In some situations, fraud is also referred to as "theft by deception."

Regardless of the nature of the offense, a theft conviction can have a significant impact on a defendant’s future.  Theft is a crime of moral turpitude.  That means it is a crime that reflect on one's character.  As a result, convictions can have lifelong consequences.  Indeed, a theft conviction can result in a permanent criminal record.  Since employers routinely conduct background checks, a theft conviction can severely limit employment opportunities.

 

[N.J.S. 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.

 

[N.J.S. 2C:20-4.]  Theft by deception 
 

A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains property of another by deception.  A person deceives if he purposely:

 Creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as  to law, value, intention or other state of mind, and including, but not limited to, a false impression that the person is soliciting or collecting funds for a charitable purpose;  but deception as to a person's intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;

b. Prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction;  or

c. Fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.

The term "deceive" does not, however, include falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance, or puffing or exaggeration by statements unlikely to deceive ordinary persons in the group addressed.

L.1978, c.95; amended 2003, c.43.

 

[N.J.S. 2C:20-5.]  Theft by extortion

A person is guilty of theft by extortion if he purposely and unlawfully obtains property of another by extortion.  A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

    a.  Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;

    b.  Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;

    c.  Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;

    d.  Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or  withhold action;

    e.  Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if  the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose  interest the actor purports to act;

    f.  Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with  respect to another's legal claim or defense;  or

    g.  Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

    It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f  that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

     L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:20-5, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.  Amended by L.1979, c. 178, s. 34, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.

 

[N.J.S. 2C:20-6.]  Theft of property lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake


    A person who comes into control of property of another that he knows to have  been lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the nature or amount of  the property or the identity of the recipient is guilty of theft if, knowing  the identity of the owner and with purpose to deprive said owner thereof, he  converts the property to his own use.

     L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:20-6, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.]

Fines & Monetary Penalties

In New Jersey, penalties for theft crimes are directly related to the amount allegedly stolen. 

 

Value Stolen

Criminal Degree

Potential Jail Term

 

$75,000 or more

2nd Degree Crime

Up to 10 years in prison

 

More than $500 and less than $75,000

3rd Degree Crime

Up to 5 years in prison

 

More than $200 up to $500

4th Degree Crime

Up to 18 months in jail

 

Less than $200

Disorderly Persons Offense

Up to 6 months in jail

 

Furthermore, the nature of the property stolen can also increase the potential penalties.  For instance, theft can be a Second Degree crime if the property is taken by extortion, considered a dangerous or controlled substance greater than 1 kilogram, or involves human remains.  Similarly, theft can be a Third Degree crime if the property is a gun, automobile, boat, airplane, pet, taken from the body of the victim (as in from their pocket or hand), taken by threat, social benefits (such as Social Security, TANF, food stamps) or a blank prescription.

 

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