Have you been charged with a theft crime in South Jersey? If you or someone you love has been arrested for burglary, robbery, or theft in New Jersey, you need to take legal action fast. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to aggressive client advocacy no matter how complex or serious the charges may be.
Our Atlantic City theft defense attorneys will fight hard to defend your liberties and will leave no stone unturned when examining the evidence against you. Our knowledgeable legal team has over 45 years of combined experience representing both adults and juveniles, and we are proud to offer free initial consultations. For a free, private consultation, call our law offices right away at (609) 625-3006. You will not be charged any fees, and we will keep your information confidential. Se habla español.
Definition of Theft Offenses in New Jersey
The basic form of theft under N.J.S.A. § 2C:20-3 consists of taking something that does not belong to you or exercising “unlawful control over” someone else’s property. In cases where the item cannot be taken and physically carried away, you can still be arrested for transferring control of property you do not own, such as a building or non-physical funds in a bank account.
Theft crimes can also be charged under different statutes depending on how the theft takes place:
- Theft by deception under § 2C:20-4 covers stealing by use of lies or fraud.
- Theft by extortion under § 2C:20-5 covers stealing by use of threats of future harm or crime.
- Retaining property that you find without seeking its owner is a crime under § 2C:20-6.
- Stealing services instead of physical items is covered by § 2C:20-8.
- Shoplifting is covered by § 2C:20-11.
In addition to these offenses, you can also be arrested and charged with “receiving stolen property.” This crime covers possession of items that you know or should have known were stolen. Any time you are caught with stolen items still in your possession, you can be charged with this crime in addition to theft. In some cases, the police may be not be able to prove that you actually stole the items in question, but the mere possession of stolen items may be charged even without accompanying theft charges.
Types of Theft: Burglary, Robbery, and Embezzlement
Aside from the crime of “theft,” there are related offenses that are often put into the same category as theft, namely burglary, robbery, and embezzlement. Some of these crimes are charged under different sections of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, carrying different penalties and definitions.
Theft from employers, also called “embezzlement,” often starts with small amounts and then graduates over time to larger amounts of money. In many cases, the total amounts stolen can be combined for one high-level charge even if multiple amounts were stolen in multiple small amounts, leading to higher penalties. Embezzlement of more than $75,000, a second degree crime, is not an uncommon crime in New Jersey and we have handled many of these cases. Often, the money is used to support a gambling or drug addiction, or someone else’s gambling or drug addiction. While the reason someone committed embezzlement can have a bearing on sentencing, it is not a defense unless coercion is used.
Burglary is the crime of breaking and entering to commit a crime within the building, and robbery is theft from a person using force or the threat of force. These acts can raise the level of a theft crime to a third degree or second degree offense, regardless of the amount taken.
Many people are surprised to learn that burglary does not always involve stealing. You can be charged with burglary for unlawfully entering a building or dwelling with the intent to commit any offense “therein or thereon.” That offense does not have to be a theft offense.
If a weapon is employed in the course of a robbery, it is a first-degree crime punishable by 20 years in prison. Using or possessing a weapon or even an imitation weapon can also result in additional weapons charges, which carry tough prison sentences and hefty fines. In fact, New Jersey is known for enforcing some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. Weapons that can lead to these charges including firearms, knives, and brass knuckles.
Penalties for Theft in New Jersey
A theft conviction on your record can have a devastating effect on your ability to earn a living. Despite numerous laws designed to protect individuals with former convictions against employment discrimination, the fact is that many employers do not hire employees who have a history of theft.
Our attorneys fight hard to resolve these cases without a conviction. Since theft is a non-violent crime, hard work by a criminal defense attorney can often result in a disposition that does not involve a criminal record. Even if you are convicted, an experienced defense attorney may be able to lower your penalties to avoid jail or prison sentences.
New Jersey imposes the following penalties for theft based on the value of the stolen goods or services:
Theft under $200
- Disorderly person’s offense
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Fines up to $1,000
Theft of $200 or more, but under $500
- Crime of the fourth degree
- Up to 18 months in state prison
- Fines up to $10,000
Theft over $500, but less than $75,000
- Crime of the third degree
- Up to 5 years in state prison
- Fines up to $15,000
Theft of $75,000 or more
- Crime of the second degree
- Up to 10 years in state prison
- Fines up to $150,000
Theft penalties are also increased based on what you stole or how you stole it. Theft of certain items, such as credit cards, firearms, vehicles, or drugs can increase the penalties you face. Additionally, theft by extortion, i.e., using threats of future harm, also leads to automatic increases.
The fines for a theft offense can also be increased to cover the full cost of anything that was stolen. This commonly applies to third and second degree theft, where the fine is often lower than the value of stolen goods.
The Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)
Theft crimes are often appropriate for the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). This program will divert your case from Superior Court, the state trial courts in New Jersey. Instead of being sentenced to jail or prison, you will participate in rehabilitative services, such as community service. In this regard, PTI is similar to probation. However, PTI also has some additional benefits for defendants.
If you complete the program successfully, the theft charge will be dismissed after a period of time ranging from 6 months to 3 years. Perhaps most importantly, you will not have a conviction on your record. As mentioned, previous theft convictions can be absolutely disastrous when seeking jobs or loans, which makes PTI tremendously beneficial in the long-term as well as the immediate present.
This program is available on a one-time basis, generally to first-time offenders. Our attorneys will help you understand whether you are a suitable candidate for PTI and will fight hard in the interest of avoiding a conviction.
If you are charged with a lower-level theft offense, such as shoplifting or theft of under $200, you may be able to avoid penalties with other programs. In these programs, similar agreements to perform community service and pay restitution to the victim may convince a judge or prosecutor to drop the charges against you.
If You’ve Been Charged with Theft, Our Attorneys Can Help
Dedicated and aggressive, our theft attorneys offer results-oriented representation from the outset. We serve clients throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County, and other locations throughout South Jersey. Contact the Atlantic City theft lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for a free consultation. We are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, including holidays. Call our law offices at (609) 625-3006 to schedule your free legal consultation.