Theft charges in New Jersey can range from minor theft offenses for shoplifting or dining and dashing to serious charges for high-value fraud or theft offenses. The severity of the punishment you could face typically depends on the amount of money you are accused of stealing, and high dollar value offenses can lead to years in prison if you are arrested and found guilty of theft.
For college students in New Jersey, these charges could mean having to leave school or even being expelled. If you are a Rowan University student charged with theft in South Jersey, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our NJ attorneys for Rowan University students accused of theft can take your case and fight to get your charges dropped and dismissed. Call our law offices today at 609-616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.
Types of Charges that Constitute “Theft” in NJ
The crime of “theft” is punished under multiple statutes in New Jersey. These statutes typically cover different theft offenses based on how the theft was accomplished. The basic illegal act of theft is the taking of property that belongs to someone else with the intent to deprive the owner of that property, but this can be accomplished in different ways.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-3 through § 2C:20-7 contain the main theft statutes in New Jersey:
- Theft by unlawful taking or disposition – theft that involves taking and carrying away someone else’s property
- Theft by deception – use of lies or fraud to take property or services
- Theft by extortion – use of threats to convince someone to give over their property or money
- Theft of lost property – failing to try to return lost property can be considered theft
- Receiving stolen property – possession of property you know is stolen is a crime even if you did not personally steal it
In addition, there are also charges for theft of services under § 2C:20-8 and shoplifting under § 2C:20-11.
Robbery and burglary are also often considered “theft offenses.” Robbery is theft where the actor uses force or threats of immediate violence to steal from someone. Burglary is the crime of trespassing with the intent to commit a crime once inside, which can include theft.
Penalties for Theft in NJ
No matter what level of theft offense you are accused of committing, you could face potential jail time. Even the lowest level of theft in New Jersey calls for the possibility of up to 6 months in jail.
Crimes in New Jersey are organized into “disorderly persons offenses” for low level crimes and “indictable crimes” for more severe crimes. Crimes are divided into four “degrees” with fourth degree as the lowest and first degree as the most severe.
Theft offenses are classified as different levels of crime depending on what was stolen and how it was stolen. Primarily, this means that theft is graded at different levels based on the value of the cash or property that was taken:
- Theft of under $200 is a disorderly persons offense with up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Theft of $200 through $500 is a fourth degree crime with up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
- Theft of over $500 but under $75,000 is a third degree crime with 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
- Theft of $75,000 or more is a second degree crime with 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
Stealing any of the following items or committing theft in any of the following ways also changes the level of charges:
- Theft of a firearm or vehicle is automatically a second degree
- Theft of a prescription blank is a third degree
- Theft of drugs is automatically a third degree crime for up to 1 kilogram or a second degree crime for over 1 kilogram.
- Theft of a credit card or other “access device” is automatically a third degree
- Theft by extortion is automatically a second degree
Robbery is usually graded as a second degree crime, but it can be upgraded to a first degree crime if an actor tries to kill anyone during the robbery. Burglary is usually a third degree crime, but it can be upgraded to a second degree crime if the actor tries to harm anyone or uses a deadly weapon during the burglary.
Because theft is one of the most common crimes in the country, it is uncommon for police and prosecutors to punish every theft offense very seriously. Especially if you are a college student and have no record of prior criminal activity, you may be eligible for programs to help get the charges dropped and dismissed, such as the Pretrial Intervention Program. For low level offenses, other options may be available. If you are not eligible, your attorney may be able to seek lighter sentences for probation to keep you out of jail.
Call the Theft Defense Lawyers for Rowan University Students
If you are a college student that was accused of theft or arrested on theft charges in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our NJ attorneys for Rowan University students accused of theft may be able to fight your case for you and work to get charges dropped and dismissed. For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at 609-616-4956.