What Is the Penalty for Theft in NJ?
Theft can refer to any number of specific actions, as long as it fundamentally involves taking something that does not belong to you. The item taken must be something that you had no right or permission to take. Additionally, the State must prove that it was your intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property taken. Being charged with theft in New Jersey means you may be sentenced to a term in jail, probation, and be ordered to pay various fines and penalties. The possible sentencing options, if convicted, can change depending on the degree of the theft crime.
What Is the Degree of a Theft Charge and How Do I Know?
Crimes in New Jersey range from disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) to indictable offenses (felonies). Disorderly persons offenses are heard in municipal court, while felony offenses are heard on the Superior Court in the county in which the offense occurred. The degree on the theft offense depends on the value of the item taken, the type of the item, and/or the manner in which theft was committed.
The following is a list of the grading of theft offenses based on the value of the item taken:
- Misdemeanor/disorderly persons offense: the value of the item is less than $200;
- Fourth-degree indictable/felony: value of the item taken is $200-$500;
- Third-degree indictable/felony: value of the item is $500-$75,000;
- Second-degree indictable/felony: value of the item is greater than $75,000.
As noted, there are certain cases in which other factors have an influence on the degree of a theft charge. For example, shoplifting charges arise solely in cases involving retailers and merchandise. Some theft charges are determined by the type of property stolen, such as theft of services, prescription theft, theft of movable property, and auto theft. Still, in other cases, the way that something was taken impacts the degree of the crime. For instance, theft by deception and theft by extortion charges are graded based on the form of conduct in the case.
Will I Go to Jail for Theft in New Jersey?
There are various factors that the courts and prosecutors consider when sentencing a person or in making plea deals. The grading of an offense, as well as your prior criminal history can make the difference between being sentenced to probation or serving time in state prison. Also, the distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony matters because you can only be sentenced to serve time in a county jail for a misdemeanor, while felonies subject you to incarceration in a state prison. The specific jail times for the theft offenses include:
- Disorderly persons theft: up to 180 days in the county jail;
- Fourth degree theft: 12-18 months in state prison;
- Third degree theft: 3-5 years in state prison;
- Second degree theft: 5-20 years in state prison.
Additionally, a person charged with a third degree offense or less who has not been convicted of another offense may be sentenced to probation or an alternative outcome, as there is a presumption of non-incarceration in those cases. However, in cases involving a second degree or higher, there is a presumption of incarceration, which means it is likely that you will go to state prison. Despite the possibility of state prison in most cases, there are many ways to resolve cases without state prison or jail.
How Our Jersey City Attorneys Can Help With Your Theft Case
If you have been charged with a theft in New Jersey, having the right attorney can help resolve the case in a way that is favorable to you by brokering a deal or by helping you gain entry into available programs that allow you to maintain a clean criminal record. For example, if you have never been convicted of a crime before, you may be eligible for Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) This program allows your case to be taken off the trial track and allows the charges to be dismissed without ever pleading guilty or going to jail.
Moreover, in many cases the value of the item taken is inflated by the State, an attorney can prove at a restitution hearing that value is much less than asserted by the alleged victim. There are other ways that a lawyer can achieve a more favorable outcomes on your behalf. Negotiating a plea deal can downgrade the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor or from a higher indictable to a lower degree, thereby limiting your overall exposure. Further, by examining all of the discovery (evidence), a skilled lawyer may be able to get some of the evidence thrown out of court.
Attorneys Defending Theft Charges in Hudson County NJ
There are also numerous ways to successfully avoid the repercussions of a theft charge and ultimately, get a theft case dismissed. Contact our office in Jersey City today of you have been accused of theft and need zealous representation. Our attorneys frequently appear in Hudson County Superior Court, as well as in local towns in Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, Weehawken, Kearny, Union City, and surrounding areas. Call (201) 793-8018 anytime and a member of our defense team can assist you. We provide free consultations around the clock so call to learn more and discuss your case.